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2009 E-Lacrosse Feature: Lacrosse is no country for old men

The Maryland Terrapins have scored 28 times in two games. Freshmen accounted for 20 of those goals and assisted on five, while Maryland's senior class, in the form of Will Dalton, has scored two goals and had no assists. Maryland will travel to play Duke Saturday, who will be starting perhaps the oldest team in NCAA history. The Blue Devils have all those reinstated players from the 2006 debacle. Eighteen-year-olds will be playing against 22- and 23-year-olds.

This Duke-MD game could be the lesson of the year for one of these teams. Duke may teach these youngsters a thing or two about discipline and maturity. But if the Terps take down this super-veteran Duke team, we all might just learn or re-learn the value of letting great players simply play. I keep thinking of the Pink Floyd song, which urgently warns, "Hey Teacher! Leave those kids alone!"

The on-the-field leader of this best attack unit in the nation and Maryland's next big star is Grant Catalino. He's the team's new "first look" on attack. Catalino, a freshman, has seven goals and one assist after only two games. He should, quite soon, be the youngest player ever added to the Tewaaraton Trophy watch list for national Player of the Year. Lefty and rookie, Travis Reed has six goals and one assist while fellow freshmen attackers Brett Weiss and Ryan Young have combined for 10 and three.

The Terps have so many legitimate starting freshmen attackmen that at all times one of them sits on the bench, and he sits with last year's star Terp Max Ritz. Ritz gets time and contributes but this team has new leadership. One need only look at the low-riding black socks and the cocky swagger of these Terps to know who it is.

Anyone who's been a viewer of E-Lacrosse for a few years witnessed Reed literally take the MIAA crown with him from one school to another as McDonogh, then Boys' Latin put fast, versatile offenses on the field with at least one thing in common -- Reed and the infectious attitude he brings to a team. In his first two games, Reed appears to have made a smooth transition to being a starting attackman at Maryland, where his father starred in the 1970's.

In my opinion, last year Reed was the best unsettled situation ball handler in high school lacrosse, and the second-best high school attackman in the nation after Steele Stanwick of Loyola. You will hear and see PLENTY about Stanwick this year in my blog. As a senior, Reed scored 54 goals and assisted on 27 to lead Boys' Latin to a No. 2 finish in the MIAA and a 18-2 record after taking the crown in 2006. In my opinion, they were the No. 1 team in the nation until Loyola and Stanwick took it from them. Either would have crushed the New York champion in 2007.

By no coincidence and lacking no drama, it was Boys' Latin that lost to Reed's McDonogh team in the 2005 championship before he transferred to BL. That McDonogh team was coached by his father, Jake who is now the coach at Dulaney. The younger scored 238 goals and dished for 102 while in high school, playing at the top level of the most competitive league in the nation. He had some help each year as he played with the likes of Chris Boland and Brett Weiss at BL, and Jimmy Daly and Jeremy Sieverts at McDonogh. But the attitude present on each of those teams was the same. It had its lid on sideways and its drawers hanging low.

Reed is a gunslinger. He's a Jon Hess type. I once saw Hess breakdance on a torn up cardboard box in the mud and driving rain after a club championship win. This Terps attack is, in fact, already reminding me of the frenetic but precision play and swagger of the great Princeton trio, Hess, Jesse Hubbard and Chris Massey, except they have more guys.

If Reed is the new quarterback on attack and attitude for the Terps, perhaps Junior Jeremy Seiverts is establishing that role in midfield. Seiverts was a pivotal part of the 2005 McDonogh team just as Weiss was a key to the BL campaign in 2006. Both know Reed very well and will hook up with him effortlessly all year long. When Catalino, Young and the others actually catch up on the lacrosse chemistry part (different than team chemistry), it will be hard for some opponents to event look competent against the Terps.

Will Dalton is a big senior faceoff presence and is pretty fast for a big guy. He likes to push the ball and get going, which is perfect for Seiverts who is dynamite in transition - a real breakaway middie who will get the "second assist" on many Terps transition goals this year. Junior Dan Groot and Australian sophomore Adam Sear can run and shoot and shoot on the run, too. Tony Mendez, another freshman, has a rocket and has been a favorite of mine for a while. Look for him to explode sooner or later and join in the freshman glory story. This is the best shooting offense the Terps have had since 1987, when the Terps did not lose a regular-season game. Unfortunately they have the same Achilles heel, too. We'll talk about that later in the year.

The Terps played four keepers against Mount St. Mary's because two won't see the field for a while. Junior Jason Carter and sophomore Brian Phipps are splitting halves otherwise and both are outstanding. The defense played well against the Hoyas' but did not need to be special against the Mount. We'll see if they can step up to match the offensive output against Duke. With the offense finding it harder to score against the Blue Devils, it may be the 'D' that wins that game for them, and they will win. It will be THE game of the early season.

An Early Souvenir from 2008

Every year I save a couple of the national championship winning team's media guides. Most years I already have them in my possession weeks before the championship is won and I've already put them in a spot with those of the other school which I think will be in the final four. By the time the big event rolls around, I'll typically have media guides from three to five teams set aside. This year I have one media guide in that spot after only two weeks of the 2008 season. After next week's huge Hopkins-Princeton-Virginia-Syracuse convergence in Baltimore, I predict to have only one more media guide set aside.

I will reserve final judgment, but right now, having seen Maryland twice, Hopkins once and Virginia once, and knowing the Princeton and Syracuse personnel well enough to make a cursory analysis, only Hopkins and Maryland will be alive for lacrosse's favorite three-day weekend. In fact, prepare now for them to play each other in a semifinal too. The committee would do anything to avoid a historic Maryland vs. Hopkins final on the very year they move the thing 400 miles away from "lacrosse's hometown."

The MOUNT

I can't say enough about Mount St. Mary's lacrosse and coach Tom Gravante. I nominated Gravante for the Muhlfelder Award for lacrosse service, which he won in 2006. I will devote an entire blog (at least) to this hero and the unique little role his program plays in big time lacrosse. But this entry was about Dave Cottle's Terps and it's not fair to evaluate the Mount against the best team in the country. We'll do that after they've played Bucknell and Canisius.

March 12, 2008
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