- The Washington Times - Friday, April 28, 2006

The Maryland lacrosse team was savoring its victory at then-No. 1 Duke last month as it traveled home through a desolate area outside of Petersburg, Va. Then the team bus broke down.

Fortunately for the Terrapins, they had defenseman Ray Megill. The mechanical engineering major took a look at the problem, realized he was staring at something similar to the twin diesel engines in his family’s 40-foot boat and set to work.

Moments later, the team was back on the road, and Megill had escaped criticism in the film room for a week for his roadside heroics.

“It was pretty cool. We thought were going to have to stay in a hotel for a night and that wasn’t going to be a good experience,” senior attackman Joe Walters said. “We were out in the middle of nowhere, and he stepped up big for us.”

Megill has done so all season for the No. 3 Terps (8-3), who meet North Carolina (4-9) in the ACC tournament semifinals tonight at Baltimore’s M&T; Bank Stadium. The junior shares the team lead with 22 caused turnovers and has emerged as one of the conference’s top defensemen just more than a year after sliding into the starting lineup.

Megill’s versatility makes him especially valuable. He can remain near the crease and mark an attackman, or exploit his quickness and defend a midfielder — as he did two weeks ago when he started the game on Hopkins star Paul Rabil and also worked against Greg Peyser. Neither player scored as the Terps rolled to an 11-4 victory.

Those skills help out in other areas, and coach Dave Cottle said Megill’s speed and ability to grab loose balls has improved Maryland’s clearing game.

“I consider myself a utility player,” Megill said. “They just put me everywhere. Going back and forth doesn’t make any difference.”

Nor does facing the decidedly difficult combination of starting for one of the country’s top lacrosse teams and juggling a daunting engineering course load.

Megill admits it can be taxing during the season — especially when he is up late doing his share of group projects — but savors the challenge of handling it all.

Megill’s athleticism complements an already strong defensive unit that features likely All-America pick Steve Whittenberg, improving sophomore Joe Cinosky, unheralded pole Ryan Clarke and perhaps the deepest group of short stick midfielders in the game.

“I’ve never thought it was easy for a kid to play close defense and go out and be a pole,” defensive coordinator Dave Slafkosky said. “That development right there has made us a better team.”

Megill, who played both pole and close defense in high school in New Jersey, slowly worked his way through an ankle injury early last year before becoming a starter eight games into the season.

Despite receiving big minutes for just more than half a season, Megill earned honorable mention All-America honors. This year could be capped with even more accolades, especially if Megill’s plan comes to fruition.

“I feel like I’m building up toward the end of the year,” Megill said. “You never want to peak too early and you don’t want to start playing your best lacrosse in the middle of the year and then have a downfall. I’d rather keep myself healthy, wait for the end of the year and then start playing really good.”

Now would be the time to do that. The Terps are seeking their third straight ACC tournament title, and next month will attempt to end a 31-year national title drought. And once Maryland is on the road to Philadelphia, this year’s final four site, it knows it has a proven Mr. Fix-It — both on defense and on the team bus.

“I’ve been busted on that for a while,” Megill said. “Parents at the tailgate were like ‘Hey, Ray, my light on my car just came on, can you fix that?’ I was like, ‘Real funny.’ ”

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