A new coach was coming in after the 2010 season, and the industrious Michael Shakespeare was going to have a fresh start after shuttling between Maryland’s second and third midfield lines as a sophomore.
Then came a bout with Lyme disease, which cost him the chance to make an early impression on a new staff and any realistic opportunity to thrive on offense. But Shakespeare pitched in on the defensive midfield a year ago, making enough of an impression to earn a place on the Terrapins’ second midfield line as long as he remained healthy.
“I obviously took a lot more watchful eye this summer,” Shakespeare said of his annual family vacation on Nantucket.
More eyes are on him as a result. Shakespeare scored twice in Friday’s 16-11 rout of Georgetown, only the second multigoal game of his career.
The career arc probably wasn’t what he would have predicted when he was Inside Lacrosse’s No. 2-ranked midfield recruit out of Walpole, Mass., in the class of 2008. But he encountered things freshmen often do, initially struggling to adjust to the college level and earning minimal time as a result.
“You have to get used to the pace of play,” said Shakespeare, whose No. 5 Terps (2-0) play host to No. 8 Duke (3-1) on Saturday. “I think once I figured that out sophomore year, I started getting comfortable on the field in big-game situations. Ever since then, I’ve kind of fed off it.”
He scored five goals as a sophomore, all but one before the end of March. But then came the Lyme disease diagnosis - the second time he contracted the tick-borne illness that causes headaches, fever and fatigue - and the inability to get in shape as a result.
By the time he was fully healthy, new coach John Tillman had settled on his primary offensive midfielders. But defensive midfielder Dan Burns was injured, opening the chance for Shakespeare to earn some playing time.
“Like most middies, they’d rather play offense than defense, but [he said], ‘Whatever you need coach’ and was happy to do it,” Tillman said. “You hope most guys say that, but people don’t always say it with that much energy and that much excitement. Mike was like ‘If that’s what you need me to do, I’m happy to do it.’ I think all that experience has helped him this year.”
It was evident Friday, when he scored once from behind the cage (hardly an expected development from someone known for his outside shooting) and another time from the outside as Maryland handled its first road test of the year.
The emergence of multiple threats on the second line is significant for the Terps, who paired Shakespeare with junior Kevin Cooper and freshman Kevin Forster. Shakespeare’s placement there was thought out by Tillman, who appreciates the veteran’s understanding of the game and ability to help at both ends if necessary.
Yet it’s also a chance for Shakespeare to contribute significantly in his final year. A summer of constant work allowed him to earn an open spot on offense — or, as he jokingly described it, “the glory side of things.”
It didn’t happen immediately, though that might make the start of this season especially satisfying.
“He did come in highly touted, and he might not have gotten off to such a hot start as he wanted to in his career, but I think he’s always known that he has a very powerful shot with his right hand and he’s always stuck to his guns,” fellow midfielder David Miller said. “He’s battled through it mentally and physically. I think he’s doing great right now.”