January 31, 2013

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#LMranks: No. 2 Maryland Terrapins (Men)

by Matt Forman | LaxMagazine.com | Team Page/Schedule


Maryland long-stick midfielder Jesse Bernhardt has already established himself as an elite defender. The NCAA's new rules for 2013 might benefit his offensive game.
© Kevin P. Tucker

Lacrosse Magazine's preseason NCAA Division I Top 20 countdown concludes today with profiles of the second- and first-ranked teams in D-I men and women.

Check back Friday for our preseason player of the year picks and profiles, and next week for more preseason #LMranks extra content, including our "Best of the Rest" and rankings analysis. For more on our preseason rankings for all levels, visit LaxMagazine.com/LMranks. Follow @LacrosseMag on Twitter and Tweet using the hashtag #LMranks.

Power Rankings

Offense: 4*
Defense: 4
Goalkeeping: 4
Faceoff: 4
* Out of 5

Top Returner

LSM Jesse Bernhardt (Sr.)
A second-team All-American in 2012, Bernhardt can do everything. "He does so many things for us that it's hard to put it into words," Maryland coach John Tillman said. Bernhardt is an elite 1-on-1 defender, a terror between the lines and a threat in transition. Look for him to be more involved on the offensive end this year.

X-Factor

M Jake Bernhardt (Sr.)
Jesse's older brother missed 2012 with a broken collarbone, yet his intangibles are equally important to his on-field ability. "What you saw last year is that he's the ultimate teammate, and the ultimate leader as a captain," Tillman said. With the rules changes, Bernhardt's well-rounded, full-field ability could expand his role.

What's New?

First-year defensive coordinator Kevin Conry replaces Kevin Warne, who left for Georgetown in August. Conry spent the previous five seasons at Fairfield, including two as associate head coach. "He communicates as well as any defensive coach I've ever had," Tillman said. He brings a lot of energy, and a lot of experience. We were very, very fortunate to get him." No word yet on whether the moshpit will continue.

What's Not?

Junior Niko Amato, a Brian Dougherty disciple from suburban Philadelphia, returns for his third season between the pipes. Though somewhat streaky, Amato is one of the best goalies in the country when he's hot, as he has been in the NCAA tournament the last two years.

2012 Recap

#LMranks MD1 Preseason Countdown

No. 20 Bryant
No. 19 Hofstra
No. 18 Fairfield
No. 17 Villanova
No. 16 Yale
No. 15 Princeton
No. 14 Penn State
No. 13 UMass
No. 12 Syracuse

No. 11 Colgate
No. 10 Lehigh
No. 9 Virginia
No. 8 North Carolina
No. 7 Cornell
No. 6 Denver

No. 5 Johns Hopkins
No. 4 Notre Dame
No. 3 Duke
No. 2 Maryland
No. 1 Loyola
Friday: Preseason Player of the Year
Next week: "Best of the Rest," rankings analysis, telling numbers, Top 20 matchups.

More: Countdown schedule | WD1 | MD2 | WD2 | MD3 | WD3 | JuCo | MCLA | WCLA

Record: 12-6 (1-2 ACC)

In a Nutshell: Maryland never won more than three straight games, and it wasn't always easy, but the Terps reached the national championship game again. "Nobody really gave us a chance, after losing a very old and talented group of players," Tillman said. "I give our kids credit for believing they could make a good run at it and continuing to work hard." The defense struggled early, but was stout down the stretch. Ultra-athletic Goran Murray emerged as a top cover defenseman, while converted short-stick Brian Cooper was stout on the inside and 6-foot-5 Ehrhardt solidified the ranks. The offense didn't inspire fear, but Cummings and Snider carried them during in the NCAA tournament. All in all, it was a typical blue-collar, workmanlike Maryland team.

High Point: A 16-10 dismantling of Duke in the NCAA semifinals, securing a second straight Memorial Day title game appearance, and having the honor of being the last ACC team still alive. The Terps controlled the tempo and dominated throughout, avenging a loss to the Blue Devils suffered just a month prior in the conference tournament. Meanwhile, the sideline moshpit celebrations reached an all-time high.

Low Point: The surprising, midweek 8-7 upset at the hands of UMBC, just three days after downing Duke in the ACC opener. The Terps were up 5-2 at halftime, but gave up five fourth-quarter goals on the road. Faceoffs were the bugaboo: Curtis Holmes and Charlie Raffa combined to win just 4-of-19 draws against Phil Poe. If it wasn't already evident, it was thus clear: Maryland plays best by possessing the ball and emotion on its side.

2013 Preview

Best Case: Maryland becomes the first team to reach three consecutive title games, since Syracuse and Princeton thrice squared off against each other from 2000-2002, but this time the Terps raise the Walnut and Bronze trophy in Philadelphia. Jesse Bernhardt becomes the first primarily defensive player to win the Tewaaraton Award, as fifth-year seniors Owen Blye and Jake Bernhardt make the offense flow fluidly.

Worst Case: Tillman's concerns with Maryland's depth resurface, as the Terps never fully get healthy. The offense struggles to adapt to the new rules, and they don't break down opposing defenses with enough regularity. They're handed an early exit in the NCAA tournament.

Inside Scoop

Coach John Tillman's comments on...

LSM Jesse Bernhardt (Sr.)
"Jesse just does so many things for us that it's hard to put it into words. He's certainly got the cover ability. But when you talk about a long-stick middie, I just don't see an area of weakness for him. Part of that is because he wants to be very good, and he works at every aspect of his game to be the very best. He's got the speed that you want, the cover ability. Yet he's also a guy that, when the ball is on the ground, he takes great pride in getting it. Then when he gets the ball, he loves getting out and creating offense. Then when he gets the ball, good things can happen. He makes good decisions, covering or not covering the ball. He can play off the ball, which some guys can't do. His motor, energy and leadership — his leadership on and off the field — guys like that are invaluable. Not just during practice time does he lead the guys, it's 24-7. It's on the weekends."

D Kevin Cooper (Jr.)
"Kevin is a guy who can play two positions. He had a very good fall, and he was very good down the stretch for us last year. When I think of a Terp, I think of Kevin Cooper. He's a hard-working guy. He can do a little bit of everything, playing offense and defense, attack and midfield. He's left-handed, he's right-handed. He can see the field, he can shoot the ball. He's been a very good leader for us."

LSM Goran Murray (So.)
"Goran is fast and athletic, and he did a really good job last year. His improvement week-to-week and throughout the season was phenomenal. But a lot of that improvement came from the guys around him helping him, the older players. Jake helping him, Jesse helping him. Michael Ehrhardt. Those guys all pitched in. There were no egos, and there was nothing to have an ego about, which turned out to be a blessing for us."

Rival Coaches Say

"An experienced group who has played in the last two championship games. They have enough big game experience and talent to beat anyone... Talent across the board back. Bernhardt is one of, if not, the best LSM in the country, they have two very talented face-off men and a great goalie... How do the new rules effect how they play offense? And who on their team can consistently draw slides and feed the ball? How does the defense adjust to a new scheme?... Jesse Bernhardt has to be in heaven with the new rules. Put him on a short list of the very best lacrosse players out there...

"Losing Warne on the D coaching staff will be big, but Conroy has to be himself and gain the trust of a very talented group of defenders... Back-to-back national championship appearances. They return the core of their defense and a talented goalkeeper in Niko Amato. Will need to replace Joe Cummings as well as Drew Snider on offense... Not sure if they will play with the same energy on the defensive end with the departure of Coach Warne but if they do, they can win it all."


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