February 26, 2014

Terps' Seniors, Freshmen Working with Good Chemistry 

by Gary Lambrecht | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter

Mike Chanenchuk and the other Maryland seniors are showing a talented freshman group the way, and they are willing to listen. (Rich Barnes)

Maryland senior midfielder Mike Chanenchuk admitted he was as surprised as anyone by the ease with which the Terrapins recorded the first, unexpected blowout of the 2014 season.

"A lot of things went our way. We didn't expect it to go the way it did," said Chanenchuk, reflecting on Maryland's 16-8 rout of Syracuse at the fabled Carrier Dome on Saturday. "Now we have to make sure we turn the page."

The Terps, who vaulted to No. 2 after smacking down the Orange in every way, basked in their one-sided afternoon during the joyous bus ride back to College Park.

Maryland (3-0) lit up the Orange and muted its home crowd of 5,283 with a 55-shot barrage, punctuated by a 10-goal second quarter that featured a stunning, 8-0 run. Faceoff man Charlie Raffa crushed Syracuse's spirit by going 19-for-26, thanks in part of six violations by the Orange. Maryland was a team possessed, as it won 36 of 52 ground balls and turned the ball over just nine times.

Now come the teaching moments involving one of the game's more exciting, youthful teams. Twenty-seven members on Maryland's 49-man roster are either first- or second-year players, bolstered by one of the more hyped freshmen classes in Division I. Already, attackmen Matt Rambo (team-high nine goals and 12 points) and Connor Cannizzaro (6, 3) are delivering, while the injured Tim Rotanz aims to join them soon.

Chanenchuk and the rest of Maryland's nine-man senior class, led also by goalie Niko Amato, LSM Michael Ehrhardt and attackman Jay Carlson, know the drill. They've been part of a program that has fallen just short of an NCAA title twice. They've been hardened by the gauntlet that is the ACC, which is a six-headed beast this year with the additions of Notre Dame and Syracuse.

With top-ranked and defending national champion Duke rolling in on Saturday, here's the drill. By Monday, two days after the near-perfect display in Syracuse, there was no time to feel good about it, no time to let any hint of overconfidence seep into the locker room.

Just like in the next few weeks, with Villanova visiting and back-to-back, conference tests looming against North Carolina and Virginia, there will be no time like the present – on the practice field, in the weight room, in film sessions. The same goes for April, when a trip to Notre Dame precedes the heavyweight event known as the ACC tournament, when a handful of the best teams in the land will beat each other up once again.

But Chanenchuk (seven goals, four assists) said there is something about this incoming group of budding stars that makes him think Maryland's youngest will not fall victim to the immaturity that breaks talented freshmen down to size in this nasty league.

"From the time they came here in the fall, these [freshmen] have been so eager to listen and learn," Chanenchuk said. "That's something you don't expect from such a highly-touted recruiting class. These guys are lacrosse rats."

"When I was a freshman, we had 17 seniors here showing us the way," Ehrhardt recalled. "I look back at that and think, wow, I never thought about how I'd be leading these guys. I loved our passion and our competitiveness and hustle plays. We got a big win and we played well. But we've got to keep our focus."

Whether the Terps crushed the Orange or slipped by the 'Cuse in overtime, the math boils down to the same quotient. After toying with overmatched Mount St. Mary's and UMBC, Maryland is 1-0 in the ACC and it's still February.

Two months from now, the Terps could be anywhere in the league standings, should be one of all six teams headed for the NCAA tournament, and could be on course to conclude a three-game series against one or two of these ACC beasts in May.

"These ACC games are a big reason why players come to places like Maryland," Ehrhardt said. "We're probably going to beat each other up a little bit."

The Terps think they've got the ideal combination of seasoning and young blood to make a serious run at the prize that has eluded the school since 1975. That explosion in Syracuse could be a harbinger of some great things to come.

But Maryland's main task, especially with a core of young impact players they will be counting on down the line, is to worry about today.

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