A few observations from Maryland’s 13-6 defeat of Navy on Friday …
1. Curtis Holmes has found a groove again. More on this in Monday’s dead-tree lacrosse rewind, but the Maryland faceoff man won 15 of 20 draws and is 20 of 28 over the last two games. That comes after the tough junior was 27-for-63 (42.9 percent) in a five-game span.
The formula for Maryland was abundantly clear this season: Win faceoffs to alleviate pressure on the plethora of new faces on defense. It’s never just about one man, but if Holmes (who has battled nagging injuries throughout the season) gets in a groove, the Terrapins’ postseason ceiling probably rises by at least a round. He’s that good when he’s at his best.
2. Navy’s faceoff unit is still struggling. Holmes’ success came at someone else’s expense, namely Navy’s main faceoff specialist and his wing guys. Logan West took the brunt of Holmes’ fine day, going 2-for-14. He’s now 18-for-60 (30 percent) over his last four games.
This is about more than the guy taking the draws. Navy entered the week 47th in the country out of 61 teams in faceoff percentage, a ranking likely to tumble some more before the weekend is through. Coach Rick Sowell tried an assortment of potential solutions —- sending pole Pat Kiernan out to faceoff and double-poling the wings, among them —- but it did little good against the Terps.
Struggles aside, West has taken all but 33 of Navy’s 229 faceoffs this season. Coaches have clearly determined the senior is the Mids’ best option, which raises the question of just how things will shake out at the position next year when he’s gone.
3. RJ Wickham arguably had his best game of the season. The senior goalie did just about everything he could to keep Navy in it over the first half, stopping 11 shots (to Maryland counterpart Niko Amato‘s one) as the Terps clung to a 6-5 edge at the break. He (and his defense) was a bit more mortal later in the game, though some of that was a function of vast possession time disparity.
Wickham now has 449 career saves (sixth on Navy’s career list), and he can only hope there’s some carry-over from Friday into next week. The Mids next face Army, and Wickham has started three games against the Black Knights without earning a victory. You can bet he wants to change that.
4. Maryland coach John Tillman is manufacturing depth. Whether it was tossing redshirt freshman defenseman Casey Ikeda out for his first career action or finding a couple runs on the second midfield line for Joe LoCascio for the second straight week, it’s obvious Tillman is trying to create some options to extend his roster in time for warmer weather.
Eventually, that’s going to pay off for the Terrapins. It might not necessarily be this season (though Tillman certainly would like that), but picking a few relevant spots each game to provide extra seasoning for younger players is certainly a good idea.
5. The gap between Maryland and Navy is as large as it’s been in more than a decade. There’s no way around it, especially after watching the Terps have no trouble with a listless Navy bunch in last year’s 10-4 win in Annapolis and then dominate the second half Friday en route to the largest margin of victory in the series since 1998.
Between 1999 and 2008 —- a span of 10 Maryland-Navy games —- the combined margin of victory was 13 goals. Maryland won six of those games and held a scoring edge of 65-64. Even when the Mids couldn’t muster as much talent on attack, it was always a tight game from start to finish.
After Navy routed the Terps 10-4 in 2009, the series has swung back to Maryland. The Terps have outscored the Mids 34-19 over the last three meetings and have won consecutive games against Navy by at least six goals for the first time since 1994-95. It doesn’t always take long for things to change directions, but Maryland holds a distinct edge at the moment.
—- Patrick Stevens