Maryland Lacrosse: 2016 season preview plus Big Ten notes

2015 was another successful season for the Maryland lacrosse program, but it produced an all-too-familiar results for the Terrapins.

Coach John Tillman’s group found themselves on the losing end in the National Championship game in Philadelphia. It was the second time in the past four years that Maryland lost in the national title game.

The Terps fell to Loyola (Md.) by a 9-3 decision in 2012.

Maryland is coming off a season in which they went 15-4 and won three NCAA Tournament games. The Terps had seven players that registered double-digit goals, including attackman Matt Rambo, midfielder Bryan Cole, and midfielder Henry West (all of whom return).

Some of Maryland’s key losses from last year’s team are attackman Jay Carlson, defenseman Casey Ikeda, and midfielder Joe LoCascio.

Maryland led the nation in scoring defense as they yielded just 7.05 goals-per-game. The only loss from that starting unit is Ikeda, so that unit certainly has a chance to produce similar numbers in 2016.

“We’re fired up to get the season started as we play one of the toughest schedules we have had in some time,” Tillman said. “It’s going to be a challenge, but we have a great group of young men that have been working hard on and off the field. They have been very unselfish and fully committed to reaching their full potential. We couldn’t be more excited to get on the field again.”

Maryland’s defense will include Virginia transfer Greg Danseglio, Matt Dunn, and Mac Pons, so there will be plenty of experience. Danseglio and Dunn were selected in last month’s MLL Draft.

Despite losing guys like Carlson and LoCascio, the Terps added former UMBC star Pat Young to the midfield, which should definitely help subdue the blow. Young comes to College Park after scoring 54 goals over the past two seasons with the Retrievers.

While Maryland does have the scoring depth to compete for a title, that’s something that has fallen by the wayside in championship games. The Terps have only scored 15 goals in their three national title games losses under Tillman. When facing the likes of Denver, Loyola (Md.), and Virginia, that’s definitely not going to cut it.

If the Terps can find the secondary scoring that they need, some hardware could be bound for College Park when Memorial Day weekend rolls around.

Maryland storylines to watch

  • Astounding scoring depth – There is certainly no shortage of offensive firepower in College Park. Even with the losses of Carlson and LoCascio, Maryland still has five returning players that scored double-digit goals in 2015. It all starts with Rambo on attack. Rambo is an elusive scorer that doesn’t need much room to make his mark. Bryan Cole, Colin Heacock, Dylan Maltz, and Henry West also should provide plenty of scoring as well. If Rambo is able to reach the 50-goal plateau and get an abundance of help from his teammates, the sky is the limit for this team.
  • The return of Kyle Bernlohr -Bernlohr began the 2015 season as merely Niko Amato’s replacement in College Park. When it was all said and done, Bernlohr was arguably the top goalie in all of college lacrosse. The Ohio native yielded just 6.95 goals-per-game last season and compiled a 15-4 record. Without Bernlohr, Maryland isn’t in the national title game against Denver. The star netminder used the butt-end of his stick to stop Joel Tinney’s bid to tie the game in the final seconds. Bernlohr is the type of big game goalie that teams can depend on when the game hangs in the balance. If Bernlohr is even close to as impressive as he was a season ago, Maryland could end their national title drought.
  • New man in the “X” – The Terps had a luxury that not many teams have over the last few years. Charlie Raffa was a rugged, tough face-off wiz that can affect the outcome of a game. Opposing teams can’t gain an edge if they can’t get possession of the ball off the draw. Raffa has graduted and Tillman will have to depend on Jon Garino at the “X.” Luckily for Maryland, Raffa missed multiple games last season and Garino got an opportunity to showcase his talents. Garino won 49.6 percent (63-of-127) of his face-offs during the 2015 season. He won 14 face-offs against Penn and nine against Rutgers, so the success was definitely there. While Raffa’s 57.9 percent winning percentage is remarkable, Garino hasn’t had the chance to do it over the course of an entire season. If Garino can be physical at the “X’ and give Maryland additional possessions, the Terps should have a big year.

Big Ten storylines

  • Replacing a superstar in Columbus -Ohio State was one of three Big Ten teams in the NCAA Tournament in 2015. Midfielder Jesse King was one of the most offensively gifted players in college lacrosse over the last few seasons. King compiled 77 points (42 goals & 35 assists) during the 2015 season, but has graduated from the program. It’s going to be a very tough task replacing the Canadian star. It also doesn’t help that the Buckeyes lost three of their top five scorers in Turner Evans, King, and David Planning. Senior attackman Carter Brown will take the reigns as the new superstar in Columbus and he certainly is capable of accepting the title. Brown is just as lethal offensively as King as he scored 35 goals last season. If his teammates can get him the ball in high percentage situations, Ohio State could give Maryland trouble in the Big Ten.
  • The tragic loss of Connor Darcey -The lacrosse world was rocked in June when Penn State goalie Connor Darcey was tragically killed in a car accident. Darcey had just completed his first full season as the Nittany Lions’ starting netminder. He allowed 10.05 goals-per-game and played all but two minutes in net. In Penn State’s 2016 season opener against Robert Morris, sophomore Will Schreiner got the start in net and stopped six shots in nearly 40 minutes of work. It’s a shame to see a promising career cut short like this, but the Nittany Lions surely will dedicating their success this season to Darcey.
  • Bounceback year for Hopkins -Johns Hopkins lost six of their first 10 games last season, which is very uncharacteristic of this prestigious lacrosse program. However, coach Dave Pietramala was able to rally the Blue Jays to a stellar finish, which included winning the Big Ten Tournament. Hopkins willed their way to the NCAA Tournament semifinals where they lost a thriller to Maryland. As deflating an end to the season as it was, the Blue Jays are primed for another run in 2016. Star attackman Ryan Brown is back along with fellow attackman Shack Stanwick and Tinney, so the offensive firepower will be there once again. Hopkins began the season with a thrilling 12-11 win over Navy on Tuesday.