April 2, 2014

Maryland's West Getting Comfortable in New Uniform

by Gary Lambrecht | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter | Lambrecht Archive

A Cornell transfer, sophomore Henry West is getting comfortable at his new school and it shows, as the Connecticut native hit for five points against Virginia in his debut on the Terps' first line. (John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com)

For Maryland sophomore midfielder Henry West, it felt like freshman year all over again.

Three days into 2014, the Terrapins hit the practice field to begin preparations for the new season. West, who had just arrived after transferring from Cornell, joined the Terps as a teammate for the first time.

Throughout the month of January, West concentrated almost exclusively on lacrosse, before the spring semester officially launched. And he needed every day of it to adjust to life as a Terp.

"It wasn't exactly seamless," West recalled. "I hadn't played lacrosse with a team for about nine months. I was not in lacrosse shape. [That month] was all about fitting in and finding a place in the locker room.

"Wearing pads felt a little foreign to me. There were times, just like at Cornell [as a freshman], when I would step back in awe a little bit of some of the players around me. The best thing was that I could dedicate myself fully to the team."

On Saturday against Virginia, in Maryland's final Atlantic Coast Conference game at Byrd Stadium and its last regular-season confrontation with the Cavaliers, West looked very comfortable in his new uniform.

In his debut with the lead midfield group, West recorded his first career hat trick and a career-high five points. His two, first-half goals snapped the Terps out of some doldrums that factored into Maryland's early, 4-1 hole. His three, second-half points fueled a 6-1 run that lifted the Terps to a decisive, 9-6 victory.

It was quite a day of validation for West and Maryland coach John Tillman, who decided to shake up Maryland's offensive lineup for the Virginia game by sliding freshman Connor Cannizzaro from midfield to attack, while bumping West up from the second midfield unit. Cannizzaro scored two goals on Sunday.

Tillman has enjoyed another victory this season regarding West – albeit a delayed win. West, an Under Armour High School All-American in 2012 who helped Darien win back-to-back state titles, originally turned down a scholarship offer to Maryland and opted for Cornell (Tillman's alma mater).

Part of Cornell's allure was the idea of playing with West's brother, Andrew, a former goalie with the Big Red. Henry saw limited action in nine games in 2013. He took three shots and won his only faceoff attempt.

"The overall experience of my freshman year didn't pan out the way I wanted," said West, who left Ithaca during the summer and took time out to figure out his next move.

"We didn't know [West] was coming until December," Tillman said. "We told him he would get what he earned. He starting making plays over the course of the month [of January]. Henry has handled his transition very well. He's humble and unassuming, but he's a very competitive guy. His drive is pretty up there, relative to the guys I've coached."

"Coming in here in mid-year is difficult," added Maryland senior midfielder Mike Chanenchuk, who arrived in College Park under the same circumstances after an unsatisfactory freshman year at Princeton.

"You're fresh and you really want to get after it, but you have to learn the offense and figure out how we play lacrosse. That's a weird situation to be in. But from the beginning, [West] has been a hard worker who has done all of the little things."

West did enough to force his way into Maryland's deep midfield rotation early on. Through the first eight games, he had scored six goals and added three assists. They included a game-tying, first-half goal at the Carrier Dome, where the Terps eventually blew out Syracuse, 16-8, on February 22.

On Saturday, with Virginia paying so much attention to Maryland's potent attack and to Chanenchuk (team-leading 23 goals and 34 points), West took advantage of some short-stick matchups and announced his presence in a major way.

"Somebody needed to step up," said Tillman, alluding to Maryland's slow start that featured 13, first-half turnovers. "When he had his opportunity, I liked the fact that Henry wasn't afraid to take his shots and make it happen."

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