Many college lacrosse programs start the season a week early to limit the amount of games—especially midweek contests—they have to play at the beginning of the year. That doesn’t apply to head coach John Tillman and No. 2 Maryland, which will play its third game in eight days when it takes on High Point Saturday afternoon.
The Terps had just two days in between the first game of the season against Navy and their first midweek game against Marist. Despite the short turnaround, Maryland was able to roll past the Red Foxes, 13-7, behind a pair of career games from Connor Kelly and Jared Bernhardt.
“Midweek games are tough because you’re out of your element,” Tillman said after Tuesday’s win. “You come off that first game and there’s a lot of excitement and guys are really into it, and then it’s midweek, smaller crowd and there’s not much juice so you have to create it. And I think our guys did that [Tuesday].”
Once the Terps get past their opening four games—which take place in the first 12 days of the season— they’ll play just once every weekend for the rest of the regular season. Tillman and the team’s strength coach have closely watched GPS trackers worn by the players in games and practices to ensure the team isn’t being overworked before the next game.
“You have to balance how many reps you want preparation-wise, how much you want versus how much fatigue you’re going to get,” Tillman said. “That’s what’s tough about early-season midweek games.”
Both the Terps and the Panthers played Tuesday, giving three full days preparation before the teams face off at 12 p.m. in High Point, North Carolina. The game can be streamed live on the Big South Network here.
High Point Panthers (0-2)
2017 record: 4-10, 2-5 Big South
Head coach Jon Torpey is the only coach ever to lead High Point’s lacrosse program, which played its first season in 2013. It took the Panthers just three years after their inception to reach the NCAA Tournament for the first time. Torpey is a Baltimore native who played college lacrosse at Ohio State.
Players to know
Senior attacker Connor Robinson, No. 3. High Point graduated its two leading scorers, leaving Robinson to step up in their absences. Coming off a 16-goal junior season, Robinson currently is tied for the team-lead with three goals in two games this season.
Freshman attacker Asher Nolting, No. 32. A freshman from Colorado, Nolting has made his presence felt early for the Panthers. He has three goals and three assists, giving him a team-high six points through two games. He’s the only player on the team with multiple goals and assists.
Junior goalie Jim Troutner Jr., No. 42. Despite conceding 19 goals to the Terps last season, Troutner had a successful sophomore campaign. His 12.5 saves per game ranked third in the country, stopping over 50 percent of the shots he faced. Troutner has struggled so far this season, giving up 29 goals in two games, although he has had to face nearly 70 shots.
Clearing the ball against top teams. The Panthers have already played No. 1 Duke and Georgetown, who is receiving votes in the Inside Lacrosse poll. Despite starting the year against top-notch competition, High Point has been able to clear the ball once gaining possession in its defending third over 80 percent of the time. Against a team like Maryland, the Panthers can’t afford to sloppily turn the ball over on their side of the field. The Terps took advantage of those mistakes that Navy and Marist made in the past week.
Offensive productivity. High Point wasn’t very good last year, and a lot of it had to do with scoring. Not one player had more than 18 goals for the Panthers last season; for context, the Terps had six players with at least 20 goals in 2017. With already struggling production, High Point’s two leading scorers graduated last year. Through two games this season, the Panthers have 11 total goals; Maryland’s Connor Kelly and Jared Bernhardt have 11 goals combined in the Terps’ first two games. This is shaping up to be another successful day for the Maryland defensemen and goalie Dan Morris.
Three things to watch
- Will any new records be set Saturday? In the first game of the season against Navy, Bubba Fairman and Logan Wisnauskas scored their first career goals. Fairman also had his first career hat trick. Against Marist, Kelly set a new career-high for points (8) and Bernhardt set new career-highs in points (7), goals (5) and assists (2). Freshman James Avanzato also netted his first career goal. When starting the season against some weaker competition, records and career highs are begging to be broken.
- Can Austin Henningsen control the X again? Henningsen went 6-for-14 at the X against Navy, but found much more success against Marist, winning 13 of his first 14 faceoffs and 16 of 22 overall. When Henningsen was able to win his faceoffs, the Terps’ offense became much more lethal. Behind strong faceoff play, Maryland scored five goals in under five minutes against Marist in the first quarter. At two different times in the game, the Terps scored eight seconds apart and 12 seconds apart.
- Who will lead the Terps’ offense in this game? Rotanz and Fairman scored six of Maryland’s 10 goals in the first game of the season, and then Kelly and Bernhardt scored nine of the team’s 13 goals against Marist. Rotanz and Fairman had one combined goal against the Red Foxes. It seems early on that any pair of players on any given day will be the primary goal scorers on a team filled with scoring options.