The Washington Times - April 3, 2012, 03:59PM

Maryland midfielder Jake Bernhardt could still come back this season.

Or he could hold off until next season.

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One thing’s for sure: Coach John Tillman still doesn’t know what the senior will ultimately decide.

“I don’t feel like I’m at a point where I can tell him ‘Here’s what you’re going to do,’” Tillman said. “I think we’ve talked about some scenarios, because there are some financial implications on both sides. He’s got to be the one that wants to come back and wants to do the work, also. We’re going to do the best we can to help him, but that’s not something that was really in our budget. We’ve got to figure some things out there.”

The “financial implications” Tillman alluded to is the ever-tricky scholarship puzzle. Unlike football and men’s basketball, it is possible to divvy up a scholarship over several players in men’s lacrosse.

Bernhardt underwent shoulder surgery in February for an injury suffered in a preseason scrimmage. Bernhardt scored 15 goals last year and started 34 games over the last two seasons.

With Maryland (5-3) either at or past the midpoint of its season, there are implications should Bernhardt decide to return. The NCAA permits a player to take a medical hardship, so long as he appears in less than 30 percent of a team’s games and does not play in the second half of the season.

That would essentially mean coming back would shut the door on playing a full season, even if Bernhardt re-aggravates his injury. Remaining shelved for the rest of the spring would give him a full senior year in 2013, which he could play with younger brother Jesse, a junior long pole this season.

“I want him really excited about coming back to this year’s team or really excited about coming back to next year’s team,” Tillman said. “I think he’s going to have to come to terms with that on his own. We could be at a point here in the next month or so where we might need some help and he might feel like ‘These are the guys I came to school with and I want to be out there and not let them down.’ Or he might be at a point where it’s like ‘You know, I want more out of this year than five games.’”

Bernhardt could help Maryland in several areas. In addition to playing a prominent role on offense, he could also serve as a defensive midfielder, a wing on a faceoff and perhaps even a change-of-pace faceoff guy.

What isn’t in doubt is whether Bernhardt could help this year’s team, which plays host to Navy (5-4) on Friday at Byrd Stadium.

“We’re preparing as if he’s never coming back [this season], and if he does those are some good problems to have,” Tillman said.

Patrick Stevens