May 4, 2012

MD1 Notebook: Baum's Move to Attack Keyed Raiders' Season

by Gary Lambrecht |

Colgate star Peter Baum shifted from midfield to attack after the Raiders' lost to Dartmouth in February. Having the ball in his stick more has paid off for sure.
© Rich Barnes 

Colgate junior sensation Peter Baum has shifted back and forth from midfield to attack throughout his Division I career. According to Raiders head coach Mike Murphy, No. 11 Colgate’s season changed when, following a 9-6 loss to Dartmouth on Feb. 25, he moved Baum from the first midfield to attack. 

“After we lost to Dartmouth in a snowstorm [and fell to a 2-1 record], we realized we just didn’t have enough ball control down low [on the attack]. We felt moving Pete from the midfield would give us more balance,” Murphy said. 

“It wasn’t exactly tough to sell him on the idea. It went something like ‘OK, Pete, would you like to stay on the field all of the time and have the ball in your stick a lot more and take maybe eight to 10 shots more per game?’” 

Baum has helped to solve a lot of Colgate’s problems, while leading the Raiders to a 12-3 record with some historic production. In Sunday’s 16-14 loss to seventh-ranked Lehigh in a high-octane, Patriot League tournament final, Baum incredibly turned in his second, nine-point game of the weekend (three goals, six assists). 

Baum broke two PL tournament records by collecting six assists in a game and 18 points over two games. He currently leads the nation in goals (59) and his Division I-leading 86 points already are school and PL single-season records. 

What makes the 6-feet-1 Baum unique is he plays like a man without a true position, since he handles a variety of roles, while staying fresh at the offensive end. 

Baum is equally effective initiating from up top like a classic midfielder, working from behind the goal or posting up like an attackman, or dodging from the wings. He is a dangerous feeder, as his team-high 27 assists attests, and he can run by or through a defender. He also is shooting a deadly 41.3 percent.

Murphy likens the way the Raiders use Baum to the way Duke used former multi-faceted, superstar attackmen Matt Danowski and Ned Crotty. 

“Peter definitely wears on a defense. He’s a hybrid. He doesn’t allow defenses to only key on him,” said senior midfielder Jeff Ledwick, who, as a beneficiary of the attention afforded Baum is tied with freshman attackman Ryan Walsh for second on the team with 31 goals. “We’re a lot more in sync with him on attack. He helps us have six guys who are dangerous.” 

Maryland-Colgate Has Tourney Implications

When No. 6 Maryland travels to Colgate on Saturday for the regular-season finale for both teams, the contest will have definite implications. The winner could seal a home playoff game. The loser probably will have to travel in the first round. 

Then again, Colgate is taking nothing for granted. Last year, the Raiders thought they had fought their way into the NCAAs as an at-large with their win over the Terps, only to learn on Selection Sunday they were the last team out. 

The Raiders would state their at-large case forcefully with a win. A loss could land them on the wrong side of the NCAA tournament bubble, especially after St. John’s shocked top-seeded Notre Dame in the Big East semifinals yesterday, knocking the Irish onto the at-large board. 

If Drexel upsets UMass in the CAA final or Fairfield upends Loyola in the ECAC title game, Colgate could be in serious jeopardy for an at-large – making a win over the Terps a more urgent need. 

Maryland junior LSM Jesse Bernhardt hears all of the tournament chatter, but prefers to block it out and just focus on handling Baum and a dangerous Colgate team that has the Terrapins’ full attention. 

“We don’t want to be packing our bags [for the first round] again. We didn’t like not giving the seniors one last game at Byrd Stadium last year,” said Bernhardt, whose team recovered just fine by making it to the NCAA title game. 

“At the same time, we’re trying not to look toward the tournament. Colgate plays tough and fast. They are one of those teams that has really progressed the last few years. Ever since we played Mount St. Mary’s [on April 18, after losing to Duke in the ACC tournament], we’ve had a playoff mentality.” 

Durkin Prepared For Another Test Against Army

Next up for Tucker Durkin: Army attackman Garrett Thul.
© Jim O'Connor 

In another regular-season finale on Saturday, unranked Army will come to Homewood Field to face rejuvenated, 10th-ranked Johns Hopkins. The Black Knights are out of the NCAA tournament picture. Hopkins (10-3) is trying to solidify a home playoff game and possibly ascend to a No. 5 seed. 

And once again, Hopkins junior close defenseman Tucker Durkin, the best player on the Blue Jays’ sturdy defense, will have his hands full – this time with Army junior attackman Garrett Thul, a 6-feet-3, 220-pound bull-dodging barrel of scoring energy. 

Then again, when isn’t Durkin up against it? Every week, he draws the opponent’s best scorer down low, usually with fine results. 

He has stuffed Syracuse’s Tim Desko, held Maryland senior Joe Cummings to one assist, handcuffed Loyola’s Mike Saywer (one goal). Even on the day when Virginia superstar Steele Stanwick had five points in a 9-8 Hopkins victory, Stanwick scored just once head-to-head against Durkin and recorded two amazing assists in heavy traffic only a player such as Stanwick could pull off. 

“Every team has a very good attackman on the schedule we play. There are good dodgers, good shooters, good off-ball guys, and you have to change how you play them from week to week,” said Durkin, who seems like a lock for a first-team, All-America honor. 

“Our coaches do a great job of preparing us from week to week breaking down film on what each guy does well. I’ve got a different plan every week. Sometimes, you don’t know how I played by just looking at the stat sheet. You have to watch the game. But I don’t care who you are [on defense]. You are going to get beat. There are too many good guys out there.” 

Starsia Likes Loyola, UMass

Virginia coach Dom Starsia is an unabashed admirer of two of the teams that have grabbed the nation’s attention in 2012. Top-ranked Massachusetts and No. 3 Loyola are a combined 27-1, possess two of the game’s most explosive scoring machines, and are not shy about getting up and down the field. 

And if the Minutemen and the Greyhounds take care of their conference tournament business by winning their respective title games, they certainly will draw top four seeds in the NCAA tournament. 

Now that would add some spice to the tournament bracket. 

“I just like those teams,” Starsia said. “As a lacrosse fan, if it’s not going to be Virginia [winning the championship], let it be Loyola or UMass.”

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