After a long nine months, college lacrosse has waltzed back into our lives, as fun as ever. There's already been some terrific games -- Duke vs. High Point, Loyola vs. Virginia -- and some big upsets, notably Towson shocking Johns Hopkins. The Maryland Terrapins finally get back into the fray this weekend, going on the road to take on in-state rivals Navy.
Before we get to previewing the game, lets refresh ourselves on what's happened in the nine months since Maryland's Final Four loss to Notre Dame.
- Maryland is of course a member of the brand new Big Ten Lacrosse league. They are joined by Johns Hopkins, Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan, and Rutgers. Many of you already knew this.
- Offensive Coordinator Ryan Moran left for Loyola. He was replaced by J.L. Reppert who came from...Navy!
- Two of Maryland's top three point producers from last season are gone. Mike Chanenchuk graduated after an incredible year where he put up 59 points. Connor Cannizzaro transferred to Denver -- where his brother plays. Cannizzaro put up 34 points last season.
- Matt Rambo likely will be back soon...but for now he's still out. There's been no update on whether he'll play this weekend. In his Tuesday press conference, Maryland coach John Tillman said this about Rambo who has practiced with the team but was not in the stadium for either scrimmage, "He's paid a significant price on a lot of levels. We don't talk a lot about what we do in house but he's been separated from his teammates and had to do a lot of community service. I've put a lot on him." Regarding his status for the Navy game Tillman added, "I can't say if he will or will not be available for Saturday. We're fully prepared to play without him."
- Niko Amato is gone after a legendary career, and so is Michael Ehrhardt at Long Stick Midfield (LSM). Goran Murray has been ruled ineligible.
- Maryland does bring up back Casey Ikeda and Matt Dunn on the defensive end. Charlie Raffa is also back at the face-off X, which is huge.
- The Terps brought in Dylan Maltz, a transfer from Syracuse. He's impressed in some of the scrimmages.
Now, onto this weekend's game. Navy is a very young team. Four of their top six point producers from last year are gone. Their two highest returning scorers are Junior T.J. Hanzsche who had 22 goals last year, and Senior Gabe Voumard who had 22 points. They lost nearly their entire midfield from last season and multiple freshmen got runs in the midfield in fall practice. The defense is also full of sophomores and juniors, with the majority of last year's D graduating. The Mids do return goalie John Connors, who saved 53.5 percent of shots faced last year and made 145 saves total. Last year's Navy team went 4-10, going 1-8 in their final nine games. They've won just seven games total over the last two seasons.
They got this year started off with a dominant 21-7 win over VMI. Patrick Keena was the breakout star of that game, totaling nine points (7 G, 2 A) with Hanzsche totaling six points, scoring four goals.
Maryland will have to watch out for Keena and Voumard's passing and not allow them to spread out the Terps D, which will create opportunities for Hanzsche, who is a pure sniper. If they can do that, Navy doesn't have a deep or experienced bench and it'll be hard for them to find opportunities to score.
For the Terps, look for LoCascio and Maltz to initiate the offense. Maryland usually has had a midfielder running the show -- such as Chanenchuk last year -- dodging and passing the ball around the top before eventually cutting the defense open and converting shots. Maryland's offense has been reliant on a strong percentage of shooting under Tillman. LoCascio could be that guy this year, and he adds the dimension of having a explosive shot. However, Tillman has talked about a faster offense this year, and being more up tempo. That could see a guy like Maltz be the initiator. Maryland did have some success last year with Cannizzaro operating behind the cage and we could see Maltz in a similar role.
Jay Carlson will likely start, which I'm glad to see. He's not flashy, but he's always there picking up pieces in front of the goal and turning them home, and it's always good to have an outlet like that in front. Maryland's offense can often be stagnant when it's just passing it around the circle waiting for an open shot. Carlson is a good option to use and Maryland's offense looked noticeably better when he came in after dry spells -- think of the Cornell game in Round 1 of the NCAA tournament.
Navy is a good test to start the season for Maryland. They'll play hard, they'll be energetic. And they really want to get a statement win to announce themselves in 2015. But if Maryland plays their usual strong defensive game, wins faceoffs, and keeps a solid pace on offense...they shouldn't have many problems.
The game will take place at noon ET Saturday from Navy Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis. There is no TV for the game but there is a live stream for free here.