February 16, 2012

Season Preview (WD1): No. 2 Maryland

by Clare Lochary | LaxMagazine.com

Sophomore Beth Glaros thrived on the draw last year in place of Karri Ellen Johnson (concussion), and should see increased playing time this spring.
© John Mecionis

Sarah Mollison's nickname at Maryland was Smalls, which was a pun on her name and a joke about her petite stature. But her influence on the Terps was huge. The Australian attacker served as the backbone of Maryland's offense for years. She parked herself behind the goal and hit her teammates with all sorts of beautiful passes, or worked the crease like an expert to create her own shots. Mollison had 56 goals and 45 assists in 2011.

How do you replace someone like that? Maryland head coach Cathy Reese's answer: You don't.

"She was a unique player and she did great, and now other people are going to be ready to contribute," Reese said. "That's an area where we're looking to throw in a few changes."

Don't expect to see junior Alex Aust or senior Kristy Black hanging out behind goal line extended trying to do their best Mollison impressions. Reese isn't looking for a Mollison replacement; she's looking for the next evolution of Maryland lacrosse. Her teams are traditionally player-centric, built to adapt to the strengths of the personnel at hand. They don't try to get players to execute a predetermined style.

The Terps will have a powerful offense, as they have had since time immemorial. Without Mollison, Maryland will attack from up top more often, especially with IWLCA Midfielder of the Year (and top returning scorer) junior Katie Schwarzmann in transition. On low attack, the Terps will joyfully welcome back Karri Ellen Johnson, the 2011 Lacrosse Magazine Preseason Player of the Year who missed 12 games after sustaining a season-ending concussion in March. Johnson was cleared to play before fall ball began, and Reese said she has not lost a step.

"She's such a fun player to watch play. She gets going and she's just unstoppable," Reese said.

Johnson is enthusiastic about playing with Black and Aust, as well as whichever underclassmen break into the lineup.

"Everything is open for trial and error. This year, it's about just being dynamic from any position. We can go behind, up top or from the side," Johnson said. "It's just being dangerous from everywhere."

Defensively, the Terps will be young, with the exception of senior Brittany Dipper (6.54 goals against average), the returning IWLCA Goalie of the Year, and junior defender Iliana Sanza. Senior defender Kristie McAfee, a supporting player in 2011, will take a larger role. (McAfee was absent from fall ball due to her commitments as a defender for the Maryland women's soccer team, which advanced to the NCAA tournament's round of 16.)

Schwarzmann returns to anchor the midfield. Sophomore Beth Glaros took over on the draw last season when Johnson was injured and quickly matured into a major contributor, posting 25 draw controls and 19 ground balls. Glaros also contributed 29 points. That number should climb as she gets more playing time this season.

Reese knows she is lucky to have a plethora of talent on hand, and she has the luxury of waiting to see who inevitably emerges as a breakout star from the ranks of the underclassmen. She's quick to give starting spots to freshmen, who have typically acquitted themselves well when given the chance to shine.

"[Reese] definitely makes it easier to adjust and just welcomes the freshmen with open arms and just makes it really easy to adapt," said Johnson, who started every game of her career before her concussion.

There are 10 true freshmen on the Terps' roster, plus three redshirts. Who is the next Sarah Mollison? It's mostly up to them.

This article appears in the February issue of Lacrosse Magazine, the flagship publication of US Lacrosse. Join US Lacrosse and its 400,000-plus members today to start your subscription to LM. Follow LaxMagazine.com all season long, and check out the Terps' team page.

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