After losing in the NCAA Championship game for three consecutive years, the Maryland men’s lacrosse program searched for answers of how to finally get over the hump.
When the Terps ended their 42-year title drought last season, there were a few factors that contributed to their long awaited triumph. Yet, perhaps none were more important than fresh legs.
With the format of championship weekend being spread over a quick three-day period concluding on Memorial Day, the importance of depth becomes paramount. Each coach works vigorously during the regular season to integrate their bench into meaningful game action.
“They only have four poles, and we’re okay dodging those poles,” head coach John Tillman said. “But if you are playing against a short stick, often times you’ll have a matchup that’ll provide a little less resistance.”
In the sport of lacrosse, backup options become more prevalent for the midfield position than anywhere else on the field due to the amount of running required. The second-line offensive midfielders are not only vital to Maryland’s end of season goal of lifting the trophy, but also to the team’s success in the coming weeks.
No midfielder exemplified the importance of the second-line midfield more than senior Adam DiMillo. The two-way midfielder scored two goals in the last season’s 9-6 title game win over Ohio State after scoring just three goals all season.
In last week’s 12-10 loss to Ohio State, DiMillo showed more assertiveness with another successful dodge and score against the Buckeyes defense.
Redshirt freshman Anthony DeMaio was also aggressive going to goal. His jump shot goal against one of the best short stick defensive middies tied the game at nine at a critical point of the game.
“At times we get out of a rhythm and when we can dodge those short sticks it will help us get into more of a rhythm,” DeMaio said. “Just doing that a little bit earlier on in the game rather than just so late so we’re not so out of rhythm the whole time. Like against Ohio State we felt a little out of rhythm in the first half and in the second half we bounced back.”
DeMaio came to Maryland as the all-time points leader in California high school lacrosse history. The adjustment from being the go-to option on attack back home to working his way onto the second-line midfield took a redshirt season, but he’s adapting quickly now with the help of his linemates.
“Getting to know the guys I’m playing with and getting that chemistry, which obviously with Colin Giblin and Adam DiMillo we have a lot of good chemistry being three lefties,” DeMaio said. “There’s not as many lefties as righties out there, so it’s cool to have three on the same line.
Still, Maryland’s offensive production is one of the most top-heavy statistical groups in the country. On the back of senior midfielder Connor Kelly’s gaudy 65 points through 12 games and sophomore attackman Jared Bernhardt’s 42, the offense’s reliance on their prolific playmakers can prove costly.
“If you’re playing against a short stick, and I don’t think it’s any different playing us, typically they’re the path of least resistance, we’ve got to be able to create some leverage there,” Tillman said. “We just can’t rely on dodging poles all day, we just play against too many good poles.”
Senior defenseman Erik Evans played terrific one-on-one defense on Bernhardt, holding him to just one hard earned goal. Kelly was often double teamed and needed help from his teammates to get back into the game, help that was hard to come by.
ESPN color commentator Paul Carceterra pointed out during Sunday’s broadcast, the fifth and sixth options for teams usually have “around 15 points” through this point of the season. The duo have combined for 13 points thus far.
Junior Will Snider and senior Colin Giblin have floated between the first and second lines after coming up from the scout team. Together, they have produced nine points.
“I’d like to see our guys be a little more assertive there, certainly that’s something we are going to continue to work on,” Tillman said. “We have to be better creating leverage and attacking those guys.”
DeMaio noted that when opposing defenses give more attention to Bernhardt and Kelly, it makes dodging to goal and playing easier much easier. Despite this, DeMaio also gave an underlying submissive tone.
“Getting the matchups and setting picks for them is really important,” said DeMaio. “So just making sure their open and they’re our guys so obviously we have to make sure they are getting the right looks.”
While Tillman doesn’t like to think of having separate midfield groups, the shake ups have caused a lack of consistency. Consistency in the midfield provides the players more chemistry, DiMillo said.
“I think it’s more on us playing with a faster pace than we have been,” DeMaio said. “I think that will definitely be an emphasis this week and for Hopkins as well.”
Latest posts by Kevin Brown (see all)
- Maryland loses in close battle with Central Michigan - December 9, 2018
- Package deal: Di Rosa twins use brotherly bond to elevate game - November 7, 2018
- Riley Donnelly transitioning to college game, new position with No. 3 Terps - September 26, 2018