The pieces seemed to align perfectly for Maryland’s lacrosse program a couple of months ago — the veteran midfield, the dynamic transition threat, the healthy faceoff maestro and the burly (and young) attack unit.
Not everything has fit together the way it was supposed to for the No. 13-ranked Terrapins.
It isn’t a lost season — far from it. Maryland (6-4), which meets No. 9 Johns Hopkins (4-4) in Saturday’s Day of Rivals doubleheader at Baltimore’s M&T Bank Stadium, will probably reach the postseason barring a stunning collapse in the next four weeks.
But an offense that was supposed to carry the Terps instead has cracked double figures in goals once in the past six games, the latest of which was an ugly 10-4 loss at Navy last week.
“There’s not panic, but that’s certainly a good way to put it — everyone needs to get on the same base,” attackman Will Yeatman said. “I think everyone is coming around and realizing ‘Hey, there’s only so much of the season left to be played, and we need to pick it up.’ Everyone feels like we’re a good team, and we have a lot of good talent. It’s not up to the coaches. It’s up to the players as to whether we’re going to produce.”
Yeatman pointed to communication and stickwork as trouble spots in the Navy loss, which came just six days after the Terps were outlasted in seven overtimes at Virginia. Perhaps the communication was a direct result of Navy’s raucous crowd. And maybe the sloppiness and poor shot selection were a confluence of unfortunate events.
But while a four-goal night was the offense’s nadir, plenty of components have played a role. Defenseman Brian Farrell, a transition dynamo, hasn’t played since Feb. 21 because of two cracked ribs, and he could ultimately redshirt. Faceoff man Bryn Holmes missed a game with injury, forcing coach Dave Cottle to retool his midfield lines.
Therein lies a subtle reason for the recent struggles. When Maryland can keep Jeff Reynolds on its top line, it offers protection for both Dan Groot and Jeremy Sieverts. When Reynolds is needed for faceoffs and defense, Groot and Sieverts are more likely to draw a pole — and Reynolds is assured one during his second-line work.
The three have combined for a goal on 23 shots in the past two games, an anemic output from a team in need of an outside scoring threat.
“I said going into it, if our middies could score, we’d be a pretty good team,” Cottle said. “When they’ve scored, we’ve been better. When they haven’t, we’ve kind of found ways to struggle a little bit.”
Time is fast elapsing to find a way to solve the offensive concerns. Holmes thrived in both losses, so the cascade effect of his absence is probably gone at this point. But Farrell still hasn’t returned, and Cottle said the junior would redshirt if he’s not back in time for the April 24-26 ACC tournament.
In the interim, solving the midfield’s problems would seem a sensible priority. And for those in the middle of it, it appears there is a need to merely simplify things entering Saturday’s 105th meeting with Hopkins — the first at a neutral site since the 1987 national semifinals at Rutgers.
“Executing the game plan hasn’t been up to snuff. I feel like some guys are trying to make the bigger play,” Groot said. “We should just make the easy one and let the big one come. I think we should just get back to ground zero and making the easy play rather than the home run.”
Clearly, there is time to solve things. The Terps’ last extended offensive drought was in 2006, when they scored 10 goals once in seven games before an 11-4 rout of Hopkins sparked a run to the NCAA semifinals.
So now the Terps return to Baltimore — in the back end of a doubleheader featuring No. 12 Navy and Army in the opener — with the chance to revitalize a season still with some promise.
“It’s one of those games that you’re fortunate to have it on your schedule when you have it because winning’s the ultimate deodorant — it gets rid of a lot of stink,” Cottle said. “A win there can really propel your team. It’s a great opportunity, is what it is.”