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Maryland men’s lacrosse’s young midfield group showed its potential in 2019

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Continuing our positional recap with the ups and downs in the middle this season.

Maryland lacrosse Bubba Fairman vs. Penn State Lila Bromberg / Testudo Times

Entering the 2019 season, head coach John Tillman led Maryland men’s lacrosse into what many expected to be a transitional year for the program. Having lost several key stars from across the roster, the Terps needed players to step up all across the roster. Some did just that, while others fell short of expectations, and Maryland’s season finished with a 12-5 record and a trip to the NCAA quarterfinals.

We began this series by profiling how the attack position fared earlier this week, and we’ll continue it with the midfield position and faceoff specialists.

Editor’s note: Long-stick midfielders and short-stick defensive midfielders will be included in the defensive recap.

The midfielders

Unlike the attack position, which had the luxury of returning two key pieces in Jared Bernhardt and Logan Wisnauskas from the season before, the Terps’ midfield group had a good portion of its first and second lines depleted from players graduating. Losing leading point-scorer and Tewaaraton finalist Connor Kelly, along with Tim Rotanz and Adam DiMillo, Tillman was left with some major holes to fill with what he had left on the roster.

The lone returning first-line midfielder was sophomore Bubba Fairman, who started all 18 games as a freshman and tallied 35 points on 26 goals and nine assists. With Kelly graduating, Fairman was poised to have an even bigger year in 2019, which he did and didn’t have in some ways.

Fairman faced heightened attention as Maryland’s top midfield threat, often drawing either a long-pole defender or the opposition’s top short-stick defensive midfielder. This prevented him from building much on his goal total, as his 25 were one fewer than last season. Where Fairman did show some growth, though, was in his ability to put his teammates in position to score, dishing 17 assists to give him the fourth highest point total on the team.

With two seasons left College Park, being able to weather this extra defensive attention going forward will be an important factor in his development. But the Utah native’s ceiling is still sky-high, and he showed his potential as a high-volume scorer with his five-goal performance against Johns Hopkins late in the season.

Anthony DeMaio contributed here and there as a freshman in 2018, appearing in all 18 games with three starts at attack while adding 12 points on six goals and six assists. This season, Tillman moved DeMaio to the first midfield line, where he shined next to Fairman. The sophomore totaled 28 goals and 18 assists to finish third on the team in points. Although he might just as useful at his original position of attack, DeMaio clearly showed that he can be an effective piece going forward at the midfield.

Senior Will Snider capped his Terrapin career with his most productive season, serving as the elder statesman on the first midfield line along with Fairman and DeMaio. Snider finished the season with just 14 points on eight goals and six assists, but his experience made him a steady and stable presence in a midfield group mostly comprised of underclassmen.

While freshman Kyle Long didn’t start a game this season, he started to eat into Snider’s playing time as the year progressed. Long was a five-star recruit who immediately found a spot on the second midfield line, but his quick twitch and decision-making skills had him pushing for first-line minutes by the postseason. He had a breakout performance in Maryland’s first-round game against Towson with a goal and four assists, including assists on the the game-tying goal late in the fourth and winner in overtime. Barring a change of heart by the coaching staff, Long has done more than enough to position himself for a spot on the first line next season.

The faceoff unit

It was a historic final season for Austin Henningsen. After taking a backseat to Justin Shockey last season, Henningsen led the way at the X this year and took advantage of his opportunities.

The senior became the first player in program history to post two games of 22 or more faceoff wins in a single season or career, and put up one of the best faceoff performances in Division I history against Richmond by going 15-for-15 on draws. By the end of the season, Henningsen had become just the fourth player in Maryland’s history to win 500 or more faceoffs in a career, and will be headed to Major League Lacrosse to begin his career with the Boston Cannons after being drafted No. 4 overall in this year’s draft.

Shockey, meanwhile, was forced to take a lesser role this season, taking just 171 draws after leading the team with 245 in 2018. Shockey still ended up winning 50.3 percent of his draws for the Terps and will be the only returning player with significant faceoff experience, so unless someone else comes in and beats him out, its Shockey’s job to lose.

2020 outlook

Looking ahead to next season, most of the first midfield line should likely already be in place with Fairman, DeMaio and Long all returning. Where things will get interesting is how Tillman decides to fill out the depth behind those players given the openings on the second and third lines.

Maryland will be without one of its key second-liners next year with Christian Zawadzki graduating, but junior Russell Masci will be back for his senior season and will likely play a significant role on the second line. Also pushing for second-line time next season should be rising sophomore Chase Cope, who didn’t see much action this year but has potential to contribute. The Severna Park alum came to Maryland this spring after spending the fall at Navy Prep (R.I.), and was ranked No. 34 in Recruiting Rundown’s top 100 for the 2018 class. The second-line midfield has lacked punch in recent seasons, and someone stepping up will take some much-needed pressure off Maryland's top scorers.

In Maryland’s 15-man recruiting class joining the fold in 2020, five are listed at midfield and two are Top 100 recruits. Dawson Wynne (Salisbury School, Conn.) is the highes- graded recruit coming in, checking in at No. 83 in the Inside Lacrosse top 100, with four-star FOGO Conor Calderone (Smithtown, NY) joining the Terps next season as well. The Terps will also be adding FOGO Luke Wierman (Henderson, Pa.) after the Philly native flipped his commitment from Fairfield to Maryland earlier this week. Wierman was an All-American this past year and could be a key part of the faceoff stable next season.

The pieces are in place for this midfield group to dominate in 2020, and Maryland will have plenty to work with when filling out the rotation next spring.