- The Washington Times - Friday, May 27, 2005

Most of the hard-core lacrosse fans at Philadelphia’s Lincoln Financial Field today will recognize Joe Walters, Bill McGlone and Brendan Healy — they of the gaudy numbers and lofty preseason expectations — as key components of Maryland’s offense.

For the last month, however, Andrew Schwartzman has been the Terrapins’ offensive ignitor. That’s not shabby work for a guy who wasn’t even guaranteed a roster spot when he came to College Park more than three years ago.

Schwartzman’s star turn in the last month, including Sunday’s game-winning goal in overtime against Georgetown in the quarterfinals, has spurred third-seeded Maryland (11-5) from a shaky start to a date with second-seeded Duke (16-2) in the NCAA tournament semifinals this morning.

The impressive conclusion of Schwartzman’s career is rooted in an unusual beginning. He attended Pikesville High School outside Baltimore and didn’t impress coaches when he attended camps.

“It was a little bit of immaturity, not taking things as seriously as they should have been taken,” Schwartzman said. “If things weren’t really going my way, if I wasn’t playing well, that would get me down for the rest of the day or the next couple days. It definitely taught me to become a little more resilient.”

That left Schwartzman without many options. He committed to Delaware but then grabbed the attention of Maryland’s staff after leading Pikesville to a state title as a senior. The Terps made him an offer in June 2001, and Schwartzman decided he couldn’t pass up a chance to play for his dream school.

Three months later, Maryland coach Dick Edell suddenly retired and was replaced by Dave Cottle. Schwartzman, who was taking classes at a community college, quickly contacted Cottle to see if he was still welcome. Cottle replied he could come out but warned that the Terps had a limited number of roster spots. Schwartzman had to play his way onto the team when he finally arrived in January 2002.

“It was so stressful,” Schwartzman said. “My first time away at college and meeting the new guys and having my first practices while they had all had a fall under their belt. I was just thrown to the wolves and had to get up and play the way I knew how.”

That was enough for Cottle, who was intrigued by the left-hander’s potential. Schwartzman wound up as an extra-man specialist his first two seasons before adding second midfield shifts a year ago.

He did become a bit of a lacrosse celebrity last season when Maryland and Johns Hopkins met for the 100th time and he faced his brother Jesse, a Hopkins goalie. Jesse Schwartzman was a reserve at the time, but he played the final 36:36 of the Blue Jays’ 14-10 victory.

“That was really cool,” Andrew Schwartzman said. “I wasn’t prepared for that. I don’t think my parents were prepared for that. Their hearts must have sunk through the ground at that point. All the family and friends said my mom could barely watch the whole game. When he went in there, I was happy for him, but at the same time I was telling the coaches what his weaknesses were.”

It was after the Terps’ meeting with Hopkins this season that Schwartzman truly blossomed. After scoring four goals as the Terps stumbled to a 5-5 start, Schwartzman put up three goals and two assists in a critical victory over Fairfield. He has thrived ever since, scoring nine goals and eight assists in the Terps’ six-game winning streak.

“He just came out in that Fairfield game and he carried us on his shoulders early on,” Healy said. “He just said, ‘I’m going to score and we’re going to win,’ and ever since he’s been doing the same thing. I’d say he’s been the best midfielder on our team for the last four or five games.”

Schwartzman’s emergence has relieved pressure on Walters, McGlone and Healy, who bore the brunt of defensive pressure for much of the season. Even from midfield, he finds a way to get the ball behind the cage — the place he is most comfortable playing.

“He’s making the same amount of bad plays, but he’s able to overcome the bad plays and make good plays,” Cottle said. “That’s through being experienced, being through the fires, being committed to what he’s doing and being confident. Early on, he couldn’t handle the bad plays.”

No matter the outcome this weekend, Schwartzman will cherish his lacrosse experience at Maryland. He came in as part of a lightly regarded recruiting class but will leave with two final four appearances and back-to-back ACC championships.

“When you come to a place your whole childhood with your family, it’s a big event to come to Maryland football and basketball and lacrosse games,” Schwartzman said. “You’re watching every game when you can’t be there. It really is special to be able to come in and wear that uniform and be in the locker room with those guys.”

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