FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Maryland midfielder Drew Snider scored four times in Saturday’s NCAA tournament semifinals, and on each occasion he found himself swarmed with teammates.
Just a few yards away, an even larger celebration unfolded every time on the Terrapins’ sideline.
Maryland’s breakout star this postseason isn’t Snider, despite his 10 goals in three games to help the unseeded Terps (12-5) reach Monday’s national title game against No. 1 Loyola (17-1). It is the team’s raucous bench and its exuberant outbursts that would fit in well at a rock concert.
“I think the mosh pit is awesome,” attackman Joe Cummings said. “I think it really symbolizes what Maryland is all about, but it’s also an opportunity for guys who put in the effort all week in scout team to celebrate on the sideline. The fact they’ve gotten the starters ready is good. It’s definitely something that’s working for us.”
The sideline is a somewhat unexpected bellwether for Maryland, which will play in its second consecutive championship game. A year ago, the Terps closed the regular season with a home loss to Colgate and coach John Tillman grumbled about the lack of excitement from his reserves. That changed in the postseason.
So when much the same script — a loss to Colgate, modest involvement from backups — Tillman again pointed out the value of spontaneous celebrations.
“After Colgate, we saw their bench and we played some other teams where they were more excited than we were, and we said, ‘Hey, if you guys can’t do that, there’s no reason for you guys to even be on the sideline because you’re not doing what the other sideline is,’ ” Tillman said.
Ever since, the Terps reserves have not held back, in the process becoming a television-friendly indication of what Maryland wants its program to be about.
Sometimes it gets as feisty as teammates slam into each other, occasionally falling to the ground as they try to one-up each other.
“We’re all really competitive and we love to fight, on the field and on the sideline every once in a while,” Snider said. “As a team, I think we’ve done a great job of not drifting away from that. That’s what’s most important, to keep that identity.”
As a bonus: There’s a comedic factor at work, too.
“It’s hard not to feed off that energy,” Snider said. “When I look over and see one of my good friends getting punched in the face, it’s funny, because it’s usually a blind side that’s not expected.”
Those with more time in the program believe such camaraderie is the byproduct of fostering cohesion over several years. Brian Phipps, who played goalie for the Terps between 2007 and 2010 and now is an assistant, said it especially started to grow in his final season.
Midfielder Jake Bernhardt, who is redshirting this season after suffering a shoulder injury in a preseason scrimmage, doesn’t see the omnipresent support as anything new. However, the senior is strategic in his involvement.
“I’ve gotten close to the middle,” he said. “I’ve not gotten too close to the core because some guys end up on the ground. A couple guys ended up on the ground [Saturday], and they couldn’t get back up. I usually try to wait until it forms and then I jump on top or something like that.”
Of course, the bulk of the players on the sideline are underclassmen. Their celebrations are, in some ways, indicative of an embrace of the formula of rugged play and a team-oriented approach that’s allowed Maryland to thrive the past two years.
“We just have guys with that personality,” junior long pole Jesse Bernhardt said. “We’re all about having fun and just enjoying the process and the journey. It’s 47 guys out there. It’s not just the 10 on the field. We really draw from that.”
• Patrick Stevens can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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