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Maryland men’s lacrosse vs. Navy preview: Terps start season with in-state rivalry

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Let the title defense begin.

NCAA Lacrosse: Men's Championship Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

A brand-new season will begin Saturday for No. 1 Maryland men’s lacrosse, and once that opening whistle blows, how last season ended fades away in favor of a clean slate. The Terps have moved on from their title and are ready to begin a new chapter starting with the Navy Midshipmen.

Maryland played two exhibition games to prepare for the season-opener, a win at home against Georgetown and a loss on the road to Virginia. Don’t make much of either result, though, as the Terps were trying out different things in a situation where the end result didn’t matter. Players weren’t even wearing uniforms with their correct jersey number.

Unlike the Terps, Navy has already played once this season. The Midshipmen began their 2018 campaign against Jacksonville, suffering a shocking 12-7 loss. Navy found itself down six goals at halftime and barely made a dent in that deficit in the second half.

Maryland played No. 10 Navy in Annapolis last year, using a five-goal third quarter to distance itself en route to a 15-12 victory. The Midshipmen, who finished last season 6-8, are not ranked by Inside Lacrosse to start this year. The Terps have not lost to Navy since 2009.

Navy Midshipmen (0-1)

2017 Record: 6-8, 4-4 Patriot League

Head coach Rick Sowell will look to bounce back from Navy’s first losing season since 2014. Plagued with injuries, including from All-American midfielder Casey Rees before last season, Sowell’s Midshipmen weren’t ever able to find their footing.

Players to know

Junior midfielder Greyson Torain, No. 6. Torain was one of two Midshipmen to record more than 30 points last season, scoring a team-high 23 goals with 15 assists. He was a First Team All-Patriot League selection and an All-American honorable mention. Torain didn’t score in the season opener, but provided two assists in the loss.

Junior midfielder/attacker Ryan Wade, No. 8. The other Midshipman in last year’s 30-point club was Wade, who scored 13 goals with a team-high 25 assists. He’s had at least a goal or an assist in Navy’s last 10 matches dating back to last season, the longest active streak on the team. He had one goal and two assists last weekend.

Sophomore goalkeeper Ryan Kern, No. 24. Kern started in all 14 games as a freshman, conceding fewer than 10 goals per game. His 125 saves last season were the most by a Navy freshman goalkeeper since 1997. He faced 46 shots against Jacksonville, saving 15 and letting 12 into the net.

Strength

Getting their shots on goal. The Midshipmen put 60 percent of their shots on goal last season, and in a small sample size of one game this year, 72 percent of their shots have been on frame. The latter sounds great, but Navy only had 18 shots the entire game against Jacksonville last weekend. Of those shots, 13 were on goal and only seven found the back of the net, which wasn’t nearly enough to win.

Weakness

Allowing shots. The Midshipmen allowed Jacksonville to run right through them in the first game of the season. The Dolphins (yes, that’s their real mascot) outshot Navy 46-18, getting off double-digit shot totals in each of the four quarters. Jacksonville recorded 10 of its 12 goals in the first half before slowing down the scoring in the final two quarters. While it was just one game, the Midshipmen’s opponents outshot them over the course of last season, too.

Three things to watch

  1. Which position will Connor Kelly spend most of his time? Coming off a 46-goal season, a Maryland midfielder record, head coach John Tillman said the All-American could see time on attack this season. Former Terp attacker Matt Rambo made that same transition once he changed to the prestigious No. 1 jersey, turning into a huge facilitator with 46 assists last season. Tillman said Kelly might make a similar transition into a facilitator on attack this season.
  2. Who will complete the starting defense in Tim Muller’s absence? Maryland will try to replace, in some capacity, former All-American and William C. Schmeisser Award winner Tim Muller. Senior Bryce Young and junior Curtis Corley are returning starters to the defensive unit, and Tillman said they’re much more mentally mature than they were last season. A likely third starter is sophomore Jack Welding, who appeared in seven games in 2017.
  3. How much will Navy struggle with faceoffs? Navy’s only faceoff specialist—Joe Varello—is suspended indefinitely, The Capital Gazette reported Monday. He did not play last weekend against Jacksonville, resulting in Navy losing 19 of 22 faceoffs. If Varello isn’t cleared to play, Maryland’s Austin Henningsen, who set a Terps freshman faceoff record two seasons ago, will easily dominate at the X.