March 17, 2010

The Farrell Factor: 'He's Just That Good'

by Patrick Stevens | Special to Lacrosse Magazine Online

A healthy Brian Farrell leaves many foes in his wake, a big reason why No. 4 Maryland (5-0) is off to its best start since 2004.

© Greg Fiume

It was late in the second quarter Monday when Maryland’s game-changer made a difference.

Long pole Brian Farrell started transition. He flipped it to Dean Hart, who passed to Travis Reed on the crease. Reed then saw Farrell coming in on the tail end of the break.

Back the pass went. In the shot went against an overwhelmed goalie during the No. 4-ranked Terrapins’ 10-7 defeat of Penn.

“That’s the old BL one-two,” Farrell grinned while recalling his and Reed's high school days at Boys Latin. “That’s always fun.”

It’s nice to be reminded of the past. Maryland, which has won five straight to start a season for the first time since 2004 in large part because of its offense, has learned that even before spring has arrived.

Farrell, who missed all but two games last year with a pair of broken ribs, has helped jumpstart it.

The redshirt junior has two goals and an assist in the season’s first month, but his influence is far greater. Maryland reached double figures in its first five games for the first time since 1999, and its
willingness to exploit unsettled situations is directly tied to Farrell’s return.

Farrell’s absence in March, April and May last year was arguably the most damaging injury for any team nationally. Without him, the Terps struggled to grind out anything, each possession a trying experience that only so rarely offered a reward.

Fast breaks were rare, so Maryland wasn’t going to score many easy goals. Yet with the long pole back in the fold, it is clear the Terps are a different outfit.

“You think?” coach Dave Cottle said. “It’s frightening.”

Not only does it help Maryland, but it also provides one more issue for opponents to consider again when facing the Terps.

After all, it’s difficult enough to figure out ways to score. But when there’s a pole who can quickly take the action to other end, a little caution can seep into the course of play.

“It improves our transition game by 100 percent,” attackman Grant Catalino said. “Opposing teams are constantly thinking about ‘Where’s Farrell? If we shoot, we have to get back.’ That puts a huge stress on their offense. I know when we go against poles that break out, we focus on that all week, and that takes away from other things you have to focus on, like actually running your own offense.”

The Terps always had a decent idea what Farrell contributed, and he was a crucial element his first two seasons.

Yet his absence for nearly an entire season reinforced his value to the program, and reminded players how a defensive player who routinely scores in practice can lift them on his shoulders.

There are still things Farrell could do, all of which would make the Terps more dangerous in transition. Some of it is simply playing more. Cottle figures Farrell could still lose another 10 pounds and remain effective all over the field.

As it stands, he’s more than useful as it is, creating havoc simply with a well-timed ground ball from the defensive end or on a faceoff wing.

“It’s just something we expect out of him,” attackman Ryan Young said. “He’s just that good.”

Farrell's role on offense grew as the first month progressed. Initially, Catalino was the focal point , and opponents soon adapted.

Farrell has opened up opportunities for Catalino in transition, as opponents can ill afford to lock down one and let the other fly free.

“You put Farrell out on the top of the box on defense and he’s going to pick off a pass, pick up a ground ball and start transition,” Young said. “I guess the way Grant had played for the first few games, knowing everyone was coming off him and Grant was sticking them high. They’ve been kind of staying on him, and Brian is the perfect person to shoot from outside. You can’t really read where he’s going to shoot. He just kind of picks the whole team up.”

ACC Notes

North Carolina’s 13-7 defeat of Duke last Wednesday snapped a 15-game regular-season losing streak to ACC teams. That followed up last year’s ACC semifinal victory, the Tar Heels’ first triumph in the ACC tournament since 1996. The Tar Heels win over Princeton on Tuesday improved them to 7-0. That's the team’s best start since 1993, when it last appeared in the final four… Virginia midfielder Shamel Bratton, who has been bothered by a hamstring injury, came off the bench to score twice in the Cavaliers’ 12-4 rout of Cornell on Saturday.

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