Personnel, schemes create problems for Terps

Maryland's offense has struggled against a challenging schedule. Inside Lacrosse's Quint Kessenich take a look at what's wrong with the Terps.

Updated: April 12, 2006, 6:43 PM ET
By Quint Kessenich | Special to ESPN.com

What's wrong with Maryland's offense? Is it personnel? Schemes? A little of both, probably. The Terrapins average 8.3 goals per game, but in their three losses, they've only managed to score 17 goals. That's less than six per game.

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The Terps lack an elite passer and a ball control attackman. They don't have a calming influence, a guy you trust to carry against a top pole and make good decisions and manage a game. Joe Walters leads the team with 13 assists, most of which he's picked up on extra man. They don't have a midfielder who can score from outside of 12 yards -- a guy who can stretch the defense and demand perimeter respect, a bomber from the outside. Walters could be that guy, but he's been asked to wear so many hats. Maryland also lacks a serious inside threat. Walters could be that guy too, but again, he's been asked to do so many other things on offense. A dominant inside scorer can destroy a slide package. Look at Virginia, when Matt Poskay and Garrett Billings are inside -- nobody wants to leave Poskay to slide to a ball-carrier. That's death.

The Terps have scored 58 goals in all-even situations in nine games. They don't score much in transition; they have fast defenders, but for some reason, they are hesitant to push the tempo in the middle of the field. I'd like to see this defense get a little more aggressive on the ball, and flow upfield into the offensive zone instead of sprinting to the substitution box. Make a ground ball win an unsettled situation.

David Tamberrino has done well at the X, but Maryland has missed the injured Will Dalton, a midfielder who is capable of pushing the draw forward or just overpowering an opposing centerman or FOGO (an acronym for "Face Off, Get Off"). Plus, it's tough to run when your goalie is turning and scooping the ball out of the net … or raking it out of bounds.

Are the Terps merely in a prolonged shooting slump, ready to break out on Saturday versus No. 6 Johns Hopkins? Mike Phipps is shooting just 11 percent and Brendan Healy is shooting 12.5 percent. Against Virginia, the Terps' first five shots could be described as low quality. They allowed Cavalier goalie Kip Turner to make some easy saves and build momentum. The first five shots that a team takes are the most important five.

Credit Randy Litzinger/Icon SMIMaryland's Joe Walters leads the Terps with 13 assists.
Ask Rutgers goalie Greg Havalchak. Loyola dissected him early this week, setting the tone for the entire four quarters. Ask Johns Hopkins women's goalie Lauren Riddick. The Lady Terps scored on their first eight shots. Havalchak and Riddick are excellent keepers who never were allowed to settle into a groove. Bad shooting can create a monster -- just ask Princeton.

For me, Maryland's answer was on tape. I scrutinized the Maryland-Navy game, and here are some quick thoughts:
Matt Russell looked really good for Navy. The best I've seen him since 2004. Navy's defense packed it in tight and kept the Terps on the perimeter. How many times is Maryland going to force feed the crease? My notes grew with every failed possession. Bill McGlone dodging three guys. Run until you lose it. Walters shot blocked. Andrew Urquhart bad stick protection. Walters stuffed by Russell, Phipps sloppy stickwork. Healy missed five shots. Xander Ritz missed six. Dan Groot, why are you forcing the crease? Max Ritz forced a pass into defensive sticks. Groot couldn't handle a pass inside. Walters pass intercepted by Russell. Walters forced the crease. Healy settles for an outside shot while running away from the goal. Mike Hartofilis shot wide. Brent Hargest turnover. Wow. No transition. No cutters. No off-ball movement. Little mistakes destroying each possession. Whose turn is it to mess up this time down?

When this team figures it out, it is going to be really good. Saturday night would be an ideal time to snap out of the goal-scoring slump. Hopkins-Maryland isn't about schemes. It's not about dancing around some oversized flag before the game. It's about the ball. Getting it. Keeping it. Making sure you put it in the net. And when you fail, finding another way.

Quick Hits

• Is there a team with less ego than Loyola? Maybe Virginia, but I was awfully impressed with the way the Greyhounds move the ball. Coach Charlie Toomey's team may be without a prime-time creator, but I give them all the credit in the world -- they get the most out of their abilities and make each other better. That's what it's all about.

• I remember when my high school coach Larry Glenz (Lynbrook, N.Y.) put our fastest player on the end line, and then spaced five players up the field at 20-yard increments. On his whistle, the five players would pass one ball, racing the player up the field, end line to end line. He blew his whistle. Four passes later, the ball was on the other end line, and the sprinting player was barely 40 yards upfield. Coach Glenz made his point: The ball moves faster than any man.

• ACC athletic directors determined this week that the No. 2 seed will play the No. 3 seed, and the winner will play No. 1 seed in the ACC Tournament final. Real complicated stuff. Had the committee watched North Carolina play last weekend, they would have cancelled the tournament. There are 25 days left before the NCAA brackets are revealed. Virginia only plays two games, one of which is against Bellarmine, during the next three and a half weeks.

• The best lacrosse player at Johns Hopkins University this spring? Easily Mary Key. She's leading the nation with 6.6 points per game, thriving when defenses are geared to deny her the ball. You've got to like her style and emotion. She reminded me that this is supposed to be fun.

• Who is Jason Donati of Towson? Shows up against Drexel last week and iso's for two goals, both crafty wing dodges. Did it with a certain ease, too. Check the Tigers' Web site. Donati was a key guy on the St Paul's championship team a few years back. He played one year for Stan Ross at Butler and had 20 points. Not bad for a freshman. He's played in seven games this spring for Tony Seaman. The kid can play.

• Watched Peter Coluccini take over a game in the Carrier Dome last Saturday. Princeton hit him a couple of times -- and he made some superb stops, especially offside low. Goalies who wear that shin guard on their offside leg advertise that they have a good step to the weakside. And he does. He looked much more relaxed and balanced between the pipes. He was patient. No guessing. Just trusting his eyes. He's a big goalie and a lefty, two attributes you can't coach. More important, he's now proven he can handle adversity.

• Orange defender Steve Panarelli played a strong game against Princeton and then came back on Tuesday night and did it again. He kept it simple -- let the game come to him -- and when it did, he produced. Against the Tigers, he was involved in two of Syracuse's seven goals. When you are as talented as Panerelli, you don't have to chase a great game, forcing the action. A great game will find you.

• You can't properly warm up a goalie in khakis and a polo shirt. It's amazing how many goalie coaches routinely will fire from 18 yards on their goalies in pregame and during halftime warm ups. When was the last time you saw a player shoot from outside 14 yards? A real warm up includes a steady diet of drive shots. Those are shots on the run -- from behind, from the wing and from up top. It also includes feeds -- from behind, from wing to wing, and from up top to down low. Focus on game-like shots, not 19-yard sidearm crank shots. You might even break a sweat.

• Jon Birsner and Ian Dingman crack me up. Birsner feeds Dingman against Maryland on the doorstep. Dingman scores. Runs to Birsner and hugs him. Lifts him up like he's a 7-year-old kid. Wish I could be at the Army-Navy game this weekend, especially with what's going on in Durham. But I got stuck with Maryland-Hopkins. Actually tried to convince the people at ESPNU that I could do both. They didn't bite. ESPNU couldn't have made a smarter choice with its production of Army-Navy; Jack Emmer will be the analyst on Saturday in Michie Stadium.

ESPNU doubleheader Saturday: 1 p.m. ET, Navy at Army and 8 p.m. ET, Maryland at Johns Hopkins. Also be sure to check out "Toyota Lacrosse Weekly" on ESPNU at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, 8:30 p.m. Friday and 12:30 p.m. Saturday.

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Quint Kessenich covers college and professional lacrosse for ESPN.