After a heartbreaking defeat at the hands of Denver in the 2015 NCAA Tournament title game, Maryland men's lacrosse enters the season looking to right the ship of lost opportunity.
The Terps started last season 12-3 before racking up wins against Yale, UNC and Johns Hopkins en route to the program's 12th championship game appearance. Head coach John Tillman's squad picked the wrong time to go cold offensively, scoring just five goals - Maryland's lowest total of the season - against the Denver Pioneers in the championship.
"Any time the season ends you'll look back and go ‘Hey what did we do well, what didn't we do well,'" Tillman said.
Maryland opens as the No. 4 team in Inside Lacrosse's preseason poll, and hopes to claim the program's first title since 1975. Since then, the Terps have made it back to the final eight times, but have yet to bring the championship home to College Park. In 2016, Tillman will look to take Maryland from a great program into a championship one.
The Terps are without a couple major components from last year's squad. Elite defenseman Casey Ikeda graduated, and the All-American's 29 ground balls and 18 caused turnovers will be a huge loss for the traditionally smothering defense.
"We lost a great guy and leader in Ikeda, but it's time for new roles to form," senior defenseman Matt Dunn said.
Faceoff specialist Charlie Raffa was not a starter, but his absence might be the biggest loss of all. When healthy, Raffa won 58 percent (125 of 216) of his faceoffs, and the team played with a different energy with him on the field.
"He was the ultimate gamer," Tillman said. "He's carried down the standard that we're looking for."
Look for Maryland to run with a committee of faceoffs specialists under new volunteer coach and former Rutgers star Chris Mattes.
Sophomore Matt Neufeldt (57 ground balls and 21 caused turnovers) suffered an ACL injury in the fall and is out for the season. His young presence will definitely be missed in the midfield.
Despite some roster turnover, the Terps retain the pieces that boasted the nation's best defense and look to be contending yet again.
Matt Rambo- Junior Attack
Easily the Terps most dangerous offensive weapon, Rambo is coming off a highlight year, as he notched 40 goals and 19 assists in 2015. He's Maryland's first player to notch 40 single-season goals since Joe Walters in 2004. If you can get out to Byrd Stadium this season, expect to see a little magic from the offensive juggernaut.
Kyle Bernlohr and Matt Dunn -Senior Goalie and Defenseman
"There is a standard around here with Maryland defense that we always aspire to live up to, and it's something we're always going to put as one of our main priorities," Tillman said.
Maryland maintained the best defense in all of Division I, and it couldn't have done so without Bernlohr between the posts. Bernlohr won the 2015 Kelly Award, given to the nation's most outstanding goalkeeper, and looks to be a huge leader amongst the Terps veteran core.
With Ikeda out of the picture, it's Dunn's time to lead this stifling unit. A Major League Lacrosse first round pick, the senior must step into a bona fide leadership role if the Terps want to continue making defense their bread and butter.
Dunn finished the season with 13 ground balls and 11 caused turnovers, and should be a defensive beast for his senior campaign in College Park.
If there is any player that could immediately surprise the collegiate lacrosse world, it's freshman Louis Dubick. A Potomac product, Dubick became the all-time leader in points (506), goals (254) and assists (252) in Maryland high school history. If he sees significant playing time, the Terps could have an unstoppable attack duo between Dubick and Rambo.
Pat Young and Greg Danseglio are also two players that could be interesting to watch this season. Young, a transfer from UMBC, scored 29 points for the Retrievers as a junior midfielder. There's no guarantee that he'll start on the first line at midfield, but he could be a key bench weapon that Tillman keeps up his sleeve.
"He's told me ‘I just want to be a part of something bigger'," Tillman said. "It's been really pleasant to see his transition go so smoothly."
Danseglio transferred from lacrosse powerhouse Virginia, and was a vital cog in the Cavaliers' starting defense. As a junior, Danseglio scooped 54 ground balls and caused 11 turnovers during 16 games with the Cavaliers. Now playing for his former ACC rival, Tillman is excited to finally use Danseglio's eligibility.
"He's doing the Maryland things now, because at times he would do the scout things that we ask our guys to do if they're not playing," Tillman said. "He's just been fantastic."
The 2016 slate for Maryland is a daunting one, but that's exactly how the Terps want it. Their non-conference schedule is a slugfest of the nation's top programs, with six of those nine games coming against a top 25 team. Not to mention a Big Ten schedule including Ohio State and backyard rival Johns Hopkins.
"This schedule is one of the most challenging schedule's we've ever had, and we've had a lot of them," Tillman said.
Maryland plays preseason No. 1 Notre Dame in California on March 5, which could end up being one of the best matches in all of college lacrosse this season.
Here's Maryland's full schedule.
Sat, Feb. 13: Home vs. Navy
Sat, Feb. 20: Home vs. High Point
Sat, Feb. 27: Away at Yale
Sat, Mar. 5: Away vs. Notre Dame
Tue, Mar. 8: Away at Drexel
Sat, Mar. 12: Away at Princeton
Wed, Mar. 16: Home vs. Albany
Sat, Mar. 26: Home vs. UNC
Tue, Mar. 29: Away at Penn
Sat, Apr. 2: Away at Michigan
Sun, Apr. 10: Away at Penn State
Sat, Apr. 16: Home vs. Rutgers
Sun, Apr. 24: Home vs. Ohio State
Sat, Apr. 30: Away at Johns Hopkins