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For Maryland lacrosse’s incoming freshmen, the wait is almost over

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Joining the defending national champions could be initimidating, but these freshmen seem up to the challenge.

Photos from USA Today Sports / Illustration by Alex Littlehales

Like many of the incoming college freshmen who participated in last week’s Under Armour All-American Lacrosse Game, future Maryland attackman James Avanzato had to decide where he wanted to play in college during his freshman year of high school.

After three years of waiting, it finally hit him that he would be heading to College Park in the fall while watching the Terps win their first national championship since 1975.

“It felt a little real,” Avanzato said. “It felt crazy thinking that we’re going to be there next year. That could be us in the next four years.”

If it’s anything like the past four years, Avanzato and the others in Inside Lacrosse’s No. 3 recruiting class will be in for quite a ride. Maryland advanced to the Final Four every year and played in the national championship the past two before defeating Ohio State this year to win the program’s first national championship in 42 years. In that time-span, head coach John Tillman has established Maryland as the premier men’s lacrosse program in the nation.

Some players may buckle under the weight of such expectations, but for WCAC Player of the Year and incoming defender Colin Hinton, having such a high bar of success will only make the incoming players want it more.

“It’s definitely some motivation to keep this thing rolling and win more championships for Maryland,” Hinton said.

At most places, having a team that successful would make them the best on the campus, but in College Park, it’s not even good enough for being the best at that sport. Maryland women’s lacrosse put together an undefeated season in 2017 on its way to a third national championship in four years.

With this success comes a huge target, as every team is trying to knock off the Terps. For attacker Catie May, who is Inside Lacrosse’s No. 5 recruit in the class of 2017, a target is nothing new.

May played in high school at McDonogh School in Owings Mills, Maryland, where the girls lacrosse team has won 177 straight games and produced many former and current Terps. The last time they lost a game, Maryland legend Taylor Cummings was a freshman on the team.

“I guess my McDonogh experience prepared me well for college because I’m used to the pressure of not wanting to lose,” May said. “It’s really helped me deal with that pressure of wanting to win a lot and will definitely me going forward with college too.”

May also has experience playing with Megan Whittle, Kelsey Cummings, and Brindi Griffin, which she says should make the transition from high school to college easier. All of Maryland women’s lacrosse’s six Under Armour All-Americans have played with a future teammate; be it in club lacrosse, high school and/or previous underclass tournaments.

This is because more than half of Maryland’s roster comes from the state of Maryland, which means that many of the players on the roster also played against their teammates at one point as well.

“I think it’s very welcoming, to know all of the girls,” midfielder and two-time Howard County Player of the Year Courtney Renehan said. “They’re like one big family.”

The family aspect was also important for midfielder Grace Griffin, another in-state recruit. Grace initially didn’t want to go to Maryland, but that changed once Reese reached out to her.

“I went on campus and fell in love instantly,” Grace said. “Also the culture of fun and loving the game, those two coming together, that’s what draws a lot of people in.”

Despite looking forward to getting on campus, these freshmen know the challenge that lies ahead. Most come from places where they were the best player on the field, pouring in goals or making big stops on the defensive end. College teams are filled with players who come from similar backgrounds.

“Just knowing that the guy next to you is an All-American in high school, and the guy to your left is an All-American in high school, you’re back to being a little fish in the big pond,” Avanzato said.

Even attackman and Inside Lacrosse’s No. 1 recruit Cole “Bubba” Fairman, who could play a big role after Maryland lost a lot of offensive production from 2017, knows how much better the talent will be.

“Honestly, I’m really excited for it,” Fairman said of the increased competition. “It’s going to be a very humbling experience, and I know I’m going to have to be very patient because I’m not used to that.”

Defender Laurie Bracey knows college lacrosse will be a huge step up, but isn’t scared of all the talent on the current Maryland roster. She knows the coaches wanted her to be a part of the group, so she’s just ready to get started.

“Obviously, they chose to recruit me for a reason,” Bracey said. “If I’m supposed to be there, they made that decision a while ago, so I’m just ready to compete at a high level.”

But everyone who comes to College Park to play lacrosse comes for the same reason: to win a national title. This wasn’t initially true for midfielder Kylie Davis, who said going to Maryland has been a lifelong dream, but seeing how successful the team was added motivation.

“You can see how much success they have,” Davis said. “And I wanted to be a part of that and take it further.”