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Maryland men's lacrosse: Tillman speaks. Todd listens.

It's the second edition of Todd's Take where we have a little fun with Maryland men's lacrosse coach John Tillman's post game press conference and, we hope, provide insight along the way. This week's post features bonus quotes from Matt Dunn.


The Maryland men's lacrosse team notched its second consecutive win Saturday afternoon, throttling Drexel by a final of 12-3. Terrapins' head coach John Tillman again demonstrated the deftness of an experienced politician in his remarks and responses to the media.

Opening Statement:

Tillman: Obviously proud of our guys. It's tough to play mid-week and then come back on Saturday. I thought we were sloppy at times and didn't come out as sharp as we'd like but I thought the effort was good. I thought the energy was really solid. Our senior leadership was great. Coach Conry did a really good job with the defensive guys just getting them organized. He had a really good game plan. The short amount of time where we had to give them Wednesday off so we had two days to prepare. But he put together a great game plan that the kids executed very well.

Kyle (Bernlohr) really settled in which he did a great job with. I know Charlie, the numbers aren't overwhelming but that was as gutty and tough a performance as we could hope for him. I thought he really gave us a lift. He fought and created a lot of 50-50 ground balls and he actually had some faceoffs that he won we just didn't get the ball. I'm very pleased with what he did today.

Obviously once we settled in offensively and started sharing the ball and being a little bit more patient I thought that things went our way.

Todd's take: I know Charlie...actually had some faceoffs that he won, we just didn't get the ball. Don't ask me if I considered subbing John Garino for Raffa.

On the overall defensive effort

(The exact question: Talk about the defensive effort. Fifty plus minutes without giving up a goal after giving up two in the first two and a half minutes.)

Tillman: I was proud of the fact that the guys didn't panic after 2-0. Sometimes you think about using a timeout at that point. We were like, ‘Let's see how we do.' We caught our breath and kept fighting and fighting and settled down a little bit. The first goal was from pretty far out. Talking to Kyle, he'd really like to have that one back. The second was just a jump cut. Just a give and go that we got beat on and so we felt like let's not get away from what we're doing and be ready if they run that again - that same little give and go.

But we started getting possessions. Early on we had a lot of unsettled (situations) that we didn't capitalize on. We had some man ups and we just rushed them. We're really just trying to find that sweet spot of playing fast but not being rushed and not taking the first option. Kinda letting it happen and we're gonna keep working on it and I think if we can get better at that it's going to help us in the long run.

Todd's take: But we started getting possessions. Playing defense is a lot easier when the opponent doesn't have the ball.

On if a particular defensive adjustment led to the dominating stretch

Tillman: We kept doing what we were doing. We felt like there were some matchups we could be okay with and then there were some we might need to help with. The guys were really disciplined with understanding some of the hands of their players. Some of their guys were a little bit more dominant in one hand than others. They have a lot of Canadian players that tend to be one handed so the guys had a good sense of who those guys were. Then we started to get a little be more comfortable defending some of the things they were doing. We're fortunate because some of the offensive sets they ran we had seen over the last couple of weeks and that helped the guys in terms of familiarity.

Todd's take: We felt like there were some matchups we could be okay with and then there were some we might need to help with. We didn't want to let a guy like Cole Shafer (7 goals in 3 games) or Ryan Belka (5 goals, 6 assists) beat us. If we could slow those two down, they didn't have any other real threats.

On what he's seen from Mac Pons

Tillman: Mac's really smart and he understands what he does well. He's got a really good lacrosse I.Q. One thing we're hoping as the year goes on we continue systematically to be a better system than we were last year. Certainly no one will argue that some of the parts were a little bit better known but it's the parts that you have and how well they work together. The guys have really bought into that. That's been really helpful for us. The guys know their strengths and limitations and they also take a lot of pride in ‘Hey, I can't let the guy next to me down.' Sometimes it's said but it's not always executed.

Todd's take: Mac's really smart and he understands what he does well. Basically, we've replaced Dez Wells type athleticism with Kyle Korver type skills.

On finding the sweet spot offensively and if the players were rushing at the start

Tillman: We had 16 shots in the first quarter. That's a 64 shot pace which is absurd. I think a lot of times we took the first shot. We didn't always take the best shot. We'll watch some film. We'll study some tendencies. We really didn't shoot some of the shots whether it was location on the field or location on the goal that we were looking for. I will say this, we were a little frustrated. The guys kinda let it go and they just kept playing and playing and playing. With the defense doing a good job of holding them down it allowed the offense to kinda play through it. Once Charlie got going and we started doing a little bit better job on the ground balls that allowed the defense to get comfortable.

They didn't have to play a lot of defense because their first couple of possessions were like two or three minute possessions. They were really lengthy. Even coming out in the second half they were really lengthy possessions. There were a couple times we just burned timeouts because we thought the kids were tired. We had to be prepared just to grind it out. And if we needed to take a timeout and get fresh guys then we just needed to do it.

Todd's take: I will say this, we were a little frustrated. The idea is to put the ball in the goal, not just heave it in that general direction because your hands are free.

On who's stepping up as leaders offensively

Tillman: It takes a little time for guys to figure out ‘How do I lead? When should I communicate? When should I throw my two cents in? Is that my place?' We're still trying to figure that out a little bit. We're excited about Jay (Carlson) being more vocal because he's out there more. He's really, really smart in everything he does. He's a great student. He's obviously got a high I.Q. lacrosse wise. He's just never been a real vocal guy but  when he does say something the kids really respect it. I think if we can get him just feeling a little bit more comfortable there that will get us on the same page.

Todd's take: I think if we can get him just feeling a little bit more comfortable there that will get us on the same page - We've got to get Jay's to be the guy who stops us from taking 16 shots in the first quarter.

Last week Dylan (Maltz) said Jay was the smartest player he's ever played with

Tillman: That's Jay to a T. He's very unassuming. He doesn't really draw a lot of attention to himself. It's just not him but he's one of those guys who ends up scoring goals a lot but if somebody's open he'll definitely get it. There were a couple of rides the other night where Jay was diving to check sticks and we got balls back because of Jay's hustle and those were a couple of the clips on Thursday that we showed when we got together to show that we scored but watch what we did to get the ball back.

Todd's take: Jay was diving to check sticks and we got balls back because of Jay's hustle. Our team needs to be more than smart. We need to outwork our opponents. Scoring is a lot easier when we have the ball.

On adjusting the location of shots

Tillman: First, their goalie did a really good job. You give credit where credit is due. He made some really good stops. We probably could have looked for maybe a better shot. He's a good enough goalie that if you take a low angle shot  or you tip your shot off, where you're shooting at or you drop your shoulder a lot of time you can tell where that ball is going and I don't think we did a great job of moving him. We let him see the ball. And I think a couple of those shots were pretty far out. I want to make sure we give him his due for sure.

Todd's take: We probably could have looked for maybe a better shot. Can we go back to that 1-16 in the first quarter? We were 11-28 for the rest of the game. That's the kind of percentage we need.

Beginning this week as an added feature I will, from time to time, include quotes from the student athletes. My choice of which quotes to include will be based solely on my personal reaction. It's not an implication that other athletes haven't provided a worthwhile quote, but is instead based on the way I heard the statement. This week, we'll hear from Matt Dunn.

On the team's reaction to the loss at Yale

Dunn: Obviously, you never want to lose and it hurts to lose especially the way we did. We just didn't come out hard. But it made it real for us that it's a possibility. You come in with a couple wins and you can get to a certain point where you think you're invincible. You think things just start to happen which isn't the case at all. And that's the trap a lot of teams fall into. You have to be aware that things don't happen that we have to make them happen. Having that loss showed that. We came out and took it for granted and we have to make sure we don't do that any more.

On the difficulty of having two days to prepare

Dunn: Having two days is difficult. It increases your sense of urgency because you realize you only have two days. In a normal week we have Monday through Friday. We just had Thursday and Friday. So at that point we realize that we don't have these first three days. We need to get everything down. We have to figure it out and do a lot on our own rather than having time to meet together. When you go home you've got to think about who's who. Then the approach we have to take at that point - which really got us to where we got to - was just to focus on ourselves. We wanted to know their tendencies but we weren't going to win that game by beating Drexel at their game. We were going to play our principles and just focus on what we know how to do. We were going to fall back on our fundamentals and that's what got us through without all the preparation. We just fell back on our training.

Note: Todd's take will be on "vacation" next week following the Princeton game. I will be in Chicagoland covering the Big Ten Women's Basketball Tournament.