By: Cody Wilcox
Whether it’s with his aggressive approach or his blazing speed, attackman Kyle Long has made an immediate impression on his team and coaching staff since he stepped on campus in the fall.
Over the past few weeks, Long has become a wrinkle in J.L. Reppert’s offense that opposing teams have not expected. He currently has nine points on the season— three goals and six assists– to help add another playmaker for Maryland men’s lacrosse.
While defenses continue to sketch their defensive gameplan around containing Jared Bernhardt, Logan Wisnauskas and Louis Dubick, Long has stepped up into the role of a key facilitator and aggressive playmaker that will be a helpful advantage to Maryland’s offense.
“He is able to get the ball to– a lot of times the right person at the right time,” Tillman said. “As you can see, watching some film, he can take the ball to the goal himself if you don’t slide to him, and if you do he does keep his head up for his teammates.”
Coming out of Springfield High School in Pennsylvania, Long was rated the No. 20 overall player in the class and the No. 8 midfielder after totaling over 400 points and 300 assists during his career. Long has seen the majority of his playing as a member of the second midfield line where he has demonstrated his natural ability to set up his teammates and get them the ball in successful positions— a trait that Long credits to his basketball-playing days.
“I think for me, I played point guard in high school. And that’s just what I did. I distributed the ball and that came easy for me,” Long said. “Obviously, I’m trying to grow my total game and that’s what we’re working towards right now.”
The two-time U.S. lacrosse All-American and Under Armour All-American saw limited time at the beginning of the season, but as the Terps enter the midway point of the season, Long is starting to see an increased role in Maryland’s potent offense as an attackman.
One game that Long saw a boost in playing time was in Annapolis, Maryland, Feb. 23 against the Navy Midshipmen. Navy head coach Rick Sowell said after the game that when the Terps would swing the ball behind the X, transitioning to an inverted offense, their defense would switch into a zone.
When the Midshipmen transitioned was when the Terps would find their most success. Tillman would rotate Bernhardt and Long behind the X and allow them to use their playmaking ability to stretch the zone and create for other teammates. While Bernhardt has shown his ability to make plays over the past three years in College Park, Long used his speed to draw slides and find holes within the defense.
The two would finish with a total of 7 points on the day, including Long’s second-career assist to Louis Dubick for his first goal of his career-high five goal day.
“We just kind of play off him,” Dubick said. “But it helps open up the rest of the field when you have someone with vision like that– that can find the skips and is also super fast who can draw slides. And then take the time with the defense with a skip pass up to Logan [Wisnauskas, or Jared [Bernhardt], or Bubba [Fairman] or Will [Snider].”
Tillman, throughout the season and especially after the Navy game, has emphasized that he expected Long to get a larger role as the season went on. And with at least three years of eligibility remaining after the conclusion of this season, Long will be a player that Maryland fans will soon be accustomed to seeing his speedy dodges and his point-guard-like ability to distribute the ball.
“We tell all the players, ‘When you go out on the field, you’re out there for a reason,’” Tillman said. “‘Be aggressive, be responsible for your decisions. Can’t be reckless, but you have to be aggressive.’
“And I think that’s something that we try to really make sure Kyle realizes. Like ‘Hey, nothing wrong with being aggressive, we just have to make sure we do a good job with our decisions. There’s only so many possessions in a game.’ And I think that’s something he’s done a good job at.”