It’s been 251 days since Maryland’s loss to Duke in NCAA Tournament semifinals, but it’s finally time to get back to Terps lacrosse.
Maryland will start off its 2019 slate with a visit from Bucknell, a team that went 11-4 and won a share of the Patriot League regular-season title last season. The last time these two teams met was back in 2006, when Bucknell beat the No. 1-ranked Terps in College Park 7-6 in double overtime.
Additionally for Maryland, this matchup with Bucknell will be the first time since 2014 that the Terps will be opening the season against an opponent other than Navy, bringing an unfamiliar foe to Maryland Stadium. Maryland will be playing Navy on Feb. 23 in Annapolis, but let’s start with Bucknell.
The Bison were one of the better teams in the country at times last season, rising to No. 10 in the Division I rankings and boasting one of the stronger scoring units in college lacrosse. Their season was cut short, though, as in the Patriot League tournament quarterfinal Bucknell was upset by Boston University, shutting the door on a possible NCAA Tournament berth. Now, Bucknell finds itself outside the top 20 looking in, with a daunting early season schedule.
The teams are set to face off at 1 p.m. ET, with the game stream available on BTN2Go.com (which unfortunately requires a BTN Plus subscription).
Head Coach Frank Fedorjaka is entering his 13th season at the helm for the Bison, touting a 122-74 (.622) record and a 57-31 (.648) mark in the Patriot League. Fedorjaka took home Patriot League Coach of the Year last season, an honor he’s received three times in his time at Bucknell, the other occasions being in 2011 and 2009.
Players to know
Senior midfielder Reed Malas (No. 17) should be one of the Bison’s more relied-upon players with the departure of three of the team’s leading point scorers from last season. As a junior, Malas notched 22 goals and 12 assists in 15 starts, earning him Second Team All-Patriot League honors and a selection as a team captain in 2019.
Sophomore attack Tommy Sopko (No. 2) is the only returning starter at attack for the Bison and likely will be asked to replace a lot of the production lost to last year’s graduating class. Sopko scored 24 goals and added six assists as a freshman and should figure to be one of Bucknell’s primary scoring options.
Senior midfielder Tom Smith (No. 11) had a breakout year his junior year, posting 21 goals and 5 assists with 12 of his goals coming in the final three games of last season.
Goalkeeping. With Maryland’s starting goalie still TBD, Bucknell is returning its same starter for the past three seasons in Christian Klipstein. Klipstein made the All-Patriot League second team at goalie in 2016 and 2017, and has been a consistent presence in net for the Bison.
Scoring depth. Outside of Smith, Sopko and Malas, no other returning player for Bucknell had more than three goals last season. Bucknell’s inexperience on offense should make this game easier for Maryland’s defensive unit.
Three things to watch
1. Can Maryland start 2019 on the right foot? Each of head coach John Tillman’s eight seasons has begun with a win in the opening game. Albeit with a changed-up roster from last year, Tillman will be looking to stretch that streak to nine and get Maryland headed in the right direction.
2. Who will start at goalie? Now that Dan Morris has left College Park, Maryland’s starting goalkeeper spot was up for grabs coming into this season. With the competition being between senior Danny Dolan and sophomore Andrew Morris, it’ll be interesting to see who’s in the cage to start and whether or not they stay there for the whole game.
3. Where will Bubba Fairman end up? Despite playing midfield for Maryland last season, Fairman could potentially be moving to attack to join Jared Bernhardt and Logan Wisnauskas. When asked about it this week, Tillman said they were still trying to see where everyone fit best within the starting lineup and that he plans to move guys around mid-season to find what works and what doesn’t. Should he make the move, the trio of Fairman-Bernhardt-Wisnauskas would make life difficult for opposing defenses.