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2017 NCAA Championship Weekend Preview: Maryland’s Projected Assignments & Player Profile

Who could Maryland’s players face one-on-one, and why Connor Kelly might be the biggest weapon on offense.

NCAA Lacrosse: National Championship-North Carolina vs Maryland Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

As Championship Weekend fast approaches, we will be taking a deep look at the Division I participants leading to Saturday’s semifinals. We’ll have team previews, a spotlight on each coach, and a profile on one of the top players for each team. We’ll also be at Gillette Stadium the entire weekend bringing you tons of content!

Earlier in the day, we previewed the Maryland Terrapins and head coach John Tillman. Our final Maryland preview will take a look at their possible assignments for Saturday and a look at one of their players, specifically midfielder Connor Kelly.

Offensive Assignments

Here’s who I think the starting offensive players will be paired against, based on watching a handful of Maryland’s recent games:

Attack

Matt Rambo - Christian Burgdorf

Maryland’s top attackman should get Denver’s top defenseman, and he’s very experienced. He’s the last starting defenseman from the 2015 National Championship team, and defended Rambo for some of the game. Rambo scored two goals and one assist, but Burgdorf got the last laugh, as his Pioneers won the game and their first title.

Colin Heacock - Dylan Gaines

Heacock is Maryland’s second attackman, and Rambo’s buddy, and should get Gaines, a defenseman that covered Notre Dame’s Brendan Gleason. Gleason was limited to only two shots. Gaines is also a Boys’ Latin graduate and two years younger than Heacock, who also went to the school.

Dylan Maltz - Jake Nolan

Nolan should once again get crease attackman duties, this time with Maltz. Nolan allowed three goals to Wynne, who was pretty much Notre Dame’s offense last weekend. Maltz scored twice in the win over Albany last weekend in Delaware.

Midfield

Connor Kelly - LSM (Dylan Johnson/Colin Squires)

This would be where Sean Mayle is discussed, but with him being out for what appears to be the rest of the season, the sophomore Johnson and the freshman Squires will have to contain one of the top midfielders in the nation. Johnson recently came back from injury against Air Force in the First Round, so he should provide some stability with Mayle out. Kelly can go off, as exemplified against Albany in the Big Ten title game against Ohio State. He scored five goals in both games.

Tim Rotanz - Christian Thomas

Rotanz has taken another step in the development of his game, with 29 goals and 11 assists this season after missing 2015 with his battle with vertigo. Thomas helped stuff Notre Dame’s midfielders last week.

Jared Bernhardt - Danny Logan

Bernhardt has a bright future with the Terrapins, and I think he’ll move down to attack next season. He’s got 20 goals this season. Logan will play a key part on the face-off wing, and can play in transition and even take face-offs if necessary.

Now let’s go on the defensive side of the ball.

Close Defense

Tim Muller - Connor Cannizzaro

Muller will probably be a First Team All-American, while Cannizzaro knows this Maryland team pretty well. He was there his freshman season, but transferred to Denver and beat his former team two years ago, with Wes Berg leading the offense. Now it’s his turn, and he leads the team with 41 points.

Curtis Corley - Ethan Walker

I would not be surprised if Corley and Muller switch assignments later into the game. Walker is slowly becoming the leader on the Denver offense as a freshman, as he leads the team with 70 points.

Bryce Young - Austin French

The sophomore, Young, should have a hard task at hand in a hot player in Austin French, who had four goals and one assists last week over Notre Dame. Young can definitely lead Maryland to key transition goals, especially against an alright defense.

Midfield

Matt Neufeldt (LSM) - Tyler Pace

Even though Pace missed the first four games of the season, he’s second amongst Pioneer midfielders with 24 points. He had three goals in the win over Notre dame. Neufeldt is a strong matchup against Pace.

Isaiah Davis-Allen - Colton Jackson

IDA is the top SSDM in the nation, and could switch up with Neufeldt if need be. Jackson has 22 goals this year, and scored one goal against Notre Dame, which he was paired against Drew Schantz.

Nick Manis - Connor Donahue

With all the assignments completed, Manis and Donahue are left. The defensive midfielders are a solid group with Neufeldt and IDA, but Manis is the middie that doesn’t get that much love.

A Closer Look

For my player profile, I’ll take a look at a probable First Team All-American. It’s not Matt Rambo. Although he’s my boy and a La Salle College High School product, I’ll take my focus up top to midfielder Connor Kelly. Let’s get to know him before he got to Maryland:

High School: Avon Old Farms (Connecticut)
High School Totals: 188 goals, 97 assists for 285 points. Also scooped up 11 ground balls.
Accomplishments: Played for the Winged Beavers for three seasons (played his freshman year at Fairfield Prep), helping the team win two Founders League championships. He was also named all-Founders League in all three years at Avon Old Farms. He also played football as a wide receiver and strong safety.
Recruiting Accolades: 2014 Under Armour High School All-American, and the eighth ranked freshman and 18th overall recruit by Inside Lacrosse.

In his freshman year, he appeared in all 19 games, totaling five goals and three assists for eight points on the second midfield. He had his first big game against North Carolina in the NCAA Quarterfinal with a hat-trick.

He began to make a big impact on the offense last season, as he started 18 games and played in all 20 games on the first midfield line, along with seniors Henry West and Bryan Cole. He had 31 goals and 13 assists for 44 points, fourth on the team. Just like the previous season, Kelly had another big game against UNC with a career-high six points, and recorded a point in each of Maryland's first five goals. He scored a then-career-high four goals in the Terp’s Big Ten semifinal and championship wins, and yet again scored four goals against North Carolina in the NCAA title game.

This season, he leads the team with 42 goals, tied for third with 11 assists, and second with 53 points. He had another day with North Carolina in Chapel Hill, scoring two goals and three assists against the Tar Heels. But ever since the calendar turned to April, Kelly has been a man on a mission.

  • @ Michigan: 3 Gs, 1 A
  • vs. Penn State: 4 Gs, 1 A
  • @ Albany: 1 G
  • @ Rutgers: 3 Gs (including the game-winner in overtime)
  • @ Ohio State: 1 G, 1 A
  • vs. Johns Hopkins: 4 Gs
  • vs. Penn State: 4 Gs, 1 A
  • vs. Ohio State: 5 Gs (career high; named Big Ten Tournament MVP)
  • Pointless against Bryant
  • vs. Albany: 5 Gs (tied career high)

Since Big Ten play began, he’s scored 30 goals and recorded 34 of his points in his last 10 games. In his last five games, he’s scored 18 goals, and was held without a point in one of them. Kelly provides production to a midfield unit that lost a ton of depth from last season. He’s aided by the likes of Tim Rotanz and freshman Jared Bernhardt up top, and his production has improved year-by-year, and definitely in the past few weeks.

Plenty of people mention Rambo as the catalyst on offense, and he certainly is. But some people do overlook the importance that Connor Kelly has brought to the midfield. For the most part, when his goals are assisted, they come from Rambo. It also benefits him that Sean Mayle, Denver’s top LSM, will most likely be out for Saturday, so he’ll have to deal with Colin Squires for the most part. At the pace he’s playing at, I would not be shocked that if Maryland wins it all, Kelly steals the NCAA Tournament MVP award from Rambo.