The Terps’ 9-7 loss to Virginia in the 2011 NCAA finals was tough to swallow for a fan base that is aching to have a national championship brought back to the state that is often considered the holy land of lacrosse. If Maryland wants to end that ache in 2012, they will have to do so without last year’s 17 seniors, including, most notably, stars Grant Catalino and Ryan Young.
While defending national champion Virginia enters the season at #1 in both the USILA Coaches and Inside Lacrosse polls, 2011 runner-up Maryland does not enter the season at #2. Instead, the Terps stand at #7 in the USILA poll and #8 in the Inside Lacrosse Poll. Clearly the experts expect a drop off in talent from the Terps this year because they lose so much.
However, there are some players who contributed in big ways last year who are returning. For example seniors Jake Bernhardt, Joe Cummings and Drew Snider are all back. In 2011, Bernhardt, Cummings and Snider all scored over 10 goals, as did returners Owen Blye and John Haus. Blye and Haus, both now juniors, also had double-digit assist totals. Also returning for the Terps is junior Curtis Holmes, who is one of the best face-off men in the country. Sophomore goalie Niko Amato will be back as well, now with a year full of experience in high-pressure situations under his belt.
In addition to the returners, another thing Terp fans can find solace in is the fact that John Tillman has brought in the nation’s #1 recruiting class, according to Inside Lacrosse. Maryland also has an intriguing transfer from Princeton named Mike Chanenchuk.
Chanenchuk is a midfielder who had a very impressive season in 2010 when he was unanimously named Ivy League Rookie of the Year. His 28 goals that year set a freshman single season record at Princeton. 28 goals would have been good for second on the Terps last season. It would have trailed only Catalino’s 31. Chanenchuk, who was also unanimously named to the All-Ivy League first team in 2010, did not play at all in 2011. If Maryland can get the 2010 version of Chanenchuk then he will be a great asset.
The Terps have also brought in transfers Billy Gribbin from Penn State and Taylor Morgan from Syracuse.
When all things were considered, neither group of experts put Maryland in the top five in their polls. The Terps were ranked #4 in both 2011 preseason polls, which means expectations from the outside are down slightly this year.
However, from within the program, expectations haven’t changed one bit. John Tillman wants to win it all. If he does, it will end a 36-year national championship drought and bring college lacrosse’s ultimate prize back to where Marylanders believe it belongs.