Testudo Times Roundtable
Week of 5/30
Q: For the second time in four years, an undefeated Maryland women's lacrosse team lost to UNC in the national championship game. The Terps fell, 13-7, to the Tar Heels in a rematch of last year's title game. What was your initial reaction to the game?
Todd: I was at the game, and the Terps looked out of sorts from the outset. UNC's Megan Ward set the tone of the game by making a save on Megan Whittle's free position in the first minute. That only bolstered the confidence of a team that came into the game knowing they had handed the Terps two of their three losses in the past three years. Confidence is a dangerous thing in sports, and another team might have wilted when Cummings scored to pull the Terps within a goal early in the second half. But credit to UNC; they responded and put the game out of reach. I was crestfallen to see the great careers of Taylor Cummings and Alice Mercer end that way.
Thomas: I was very confused when I saw UNC jump out to a 6-1 lead in the first half. Then Maryland got back in it, and Caroline Steele's behind-the-back piece of witchcraft had me convinced that the Terps would cruise in the end. But the Heels went on another run in the second half, each goal more gut-wrenching than the last. And in the waning minutes of Taylor Cummings' career, her team didn't have a chance. It felt really, really weird.
Noah: UNC played an outstanding game from start to finish, and the Terps played one of the worst games I've seen them play in years at the absolute worst possible time. UNC deserved to win that game. I wasn't surprised that the Tar Heels won, but the margin of victory was definitely surprising. It's tough when you only lose once all season long, and it happens to be the national championship game. I agree with Thomas that it was weird to see the careers of Alice Mercer and Taylor Cummings end not with a roar or a bang, but with a whimper.
Q: Maryland men's lacrosse fell to UNC in overtime, 14-13, on Memorial Day. That loss puts the Terps at 0-9 in NCAA Championship games since 1975. What was your initial reaction to the game?
Todd: I was at this game, too. My initial reaction: utter disappointment. It was a spectacular game, and the Terps certainly had chances to win it - both in regulation and in the overtime. I've posted this elsewhere, but this qualifies as the hardest final game loss of the Tillman era for me because this was the first time that I believed the Terps had a legitimate chance to win the title and not just a fighter's chance.
Andrew K.: Massive depression. The Terps were up 13-11 with a few minutes left, and I could smell victory. Even when the game went into OT and we were a man up, I felt like Maryland would pull it off. It's a tough loss, but it shouldn't obscure the fantastic season that the MLAX team had.
Thomas: It was a stomach-punch loss for sure. Sudden-death overtime does that. One minute, the Terps were trying to win the game. The next, UNC was celebrating. It takes a few seconds to process: "UNC scored...which means Maryland lost...in the title game...for the second straight year...and neither LAX team could finish the deal." And then rudimentary activities become painful.
Noah: I felt like I had been driving the "men's lacrosse is going to finally win it all this year" train along with Inside Lacrosse's Christian Swezey. This team had everything: an incredible defense, a strong and balanced offense and fantastic depth. I felt bad for the Terps, but I felt great for UNC too. It was an all-time classic game, but it just didn't go Maryland's way. This was one of the all-time great Terps teams, and no one can take that away from them.
Q: Maryland men's basketball got a commitment from Canadian four-star SF Justin Jackson. How much of an impact will Jackson have on the Terps next season?
Todd: Everyone seems to think it will be significant. I just don't know enough about it or follow this closely enough to have anything resembling a legitimate opinion.
Andrew K.: Quite a bit. Without him, I think the Terps would have had trouble getting points inside. Apparently he has a large wingspan and can help with preventing opponents from slashing to the rim.
Thomas: Jackson is 6'7, but his 7'3 wingspan gives Mark Turgeon a lot of options. I think he'll start at small forward, but he might play a lot of minutes as a stretch-4 and even some at center. This whole Maryland team is intriguing, with a lot of potential contributors but only one guy who's ever been a star (Trimble). Jackson will probably get the best chance of all the freshmen (maybe Cowan) to put up points.
Noah: Jackson's size and prodigious talent allows Turgeon the flexibility to go with different lineups. Think about the offensive potential of a group on the floor that includes Melo, Dion Wiley, Cowan and Jackson. That grouping will be really fun to watch.
Q: Maryland baseball failed to make the NCAA Tournament for the first time in three seasons. What was the biggest issue that the Terps need to address in the offseason, and do you think Mike Shawaryn will stay for one more year?
Todd: I see three and possibly four main issues. First, they need to shore up the bullpen and find a closer. Second and third, their young players need to develop consistency at the plate and in the field. The possible fourth is replacing Shawaryn. If he goes into the draft, as I suspect he will, the Terps starting rotation still looks to be very solid - with Bloom, Shaffer and Parsons.
In the middle of the season when he was 2-3 with an ERA over 4.00, I thought Shawaryn's draft stock had dropped enough that he might consider returning. He returned to form a bit in the latter part of the year and boosted himself back up. I doubt he will be the first-round lock he was projected to be after 2015. At this point, I think it would be a huge roll of the dice for him to come back.
Andrew K.: I'll start with "The Unicorn". He should definitely go pro. Shawaryn has shown that he can master college hitters, and learned quite a bit last summer while on the Collegiate National Team. From what I've heard, he'll go somewhere late in round two or early in round three. The biggest issue the Terps need to address is their bullpen. Other than Hunter Parsons, the rising sophomore arms were a disappointment in their freshman year. I think the coaching staff should scour the JuCo scene for a potential closer.
Thomas: Agree with the comments about the bullpen. That's really the only thing that jumps out at me as an explanation for why the Terps underachieved. At first glance, Maryland looks really good for next year, with so many players coming back. Shawaryn should definitely enter the draft, but he can refuse to sign and maintain eligibility. I'm not sure how much it would take for him to enter the professional ranks, but I hope whatever decision he does make turns out well.
Noah: I like Andrew's idea about going out and shopping for a proven closer. That was a major weakness for this year's team. Consistency was the Achilles Heel for the Terps, and it even affected "The Unicorn". I think it makes the most sense for Shawaryn to go pro, but I think he should do whatever he thinks is most beneficial for him. Maryland's record should improve next season with so many major contributors returning.