As soon as the NCAA revealed the Terrapins men’s lacrosse team would face Cornell in the first round of the national tournament for the second straight season during its selection show on ESPNU on Sunday night, coach John Tillman pulled out his phone and contacted one of the newest members of his program: midfielder Henry West.
West played for the Big Red in 2013 but transferred to this university in the winter.
“When the bids came out, I just texted him to check in and make sure he was doing OK,” Tillman said. “Obviously an interesting dynamic for him.”
Tillman said he actively recruited West — who graduated from Darien High School in Darien, Connecticut, in 2012 — but the midfielder chose Ithaca, New York, over College Park. He originally followed his older brother, Andrew, a goalkeeper for the Big Red from 2011 to 2012. But after playing in just nine games during his rookie campaign, West decided to give the Terps a second chance.
Though he was unable to participate in fall practice and didn’t officially join the team until January, West has emerged as one of Tillman’s most consistent two-way midfielders. He ranks sixth on the team with 14 goals and has also taken five faceoffs for the Terps this season.
West started 2014 on the second-line midfield, but when Tillman moved freshman Connor Cannizzaro from midfield to attack for the Terps’ home contest against Virginia, the sophomore filled in with the starting midfield.
West went on to score his first career hat trick against the Cavaliers in his first start of the season and has played every game since with the primary midfield unit.
“I’m not sure where we’d be without him,” Tillman said. “So we’re really thankful that he’s here.”
After the Terps offense scored a season-low five goals in a rain-soaked ACC tournament semifinal loss to Notre Dame on April 25 in Chester, Pennsylvania, the unit responded with a 12-goal outburst in a win over Navy at home Saturday.
The weather during the game against the Midshipmen at Byrd Stadium was significantly drier and warmer than the downpour the Terps dealt with at PPL Park.
“The conditions allowed ourselves to handle the ball a little bit better,” Tillman said.
Nine players scored goals for the Terps on Saturday, including two tallies from attackman Jay Carlson. The junior — who lost his starting job when Cannizzaro shifted to attack and has seen the majority of his playing time with the man-up unit during the second half of the season — entered the contest tied for third on the team in goals despite not finding the back of the net in the previous three games.
He ended that drought against the Midshipmen, and Tillman said he hopes to use Carlson and Cannizzaro together more in the postseason.
“As long as we can get possessions, you’ll see Jay in there,” Tillman said. “He adds an interesting dimension to our team. He just seems to find a way to put the ball in the back of the net.”
In the week leading up to the Terps’ regular-season finale against Navy, Tillman said he expected attackman Mike Chanenchuk — the team’s leading goal-scorer — to overcome an ankle injury he suffered against the Fighting Irish in the conference tournament and play Saturday.
The senior was announced in the starting lineup, but he wasn’t on the field at Byrd Stadium to begin the game. Chanenchuk played limited minutes in the 12-6 victory.
During his conference call yesterday, Tillman said he would take feedback from Chanenchuk as well as assistant athletic trainer Amelia Sesma over the course of the week before making a decision for the opening-round NCAA tournament game against Cornell that is “in the best interest of Michael, but also the team.”
Tillman said if the ankle injury remains significant before the weekend, and he felt Chanenchuk couldn’t help the team anymore, he would sit the attackman. But that’s a verdict that will come at the end of the week.
“We’ll see how it goes,” Tillman said. “We’ll take it day-by-day.”