Terp Connor Kelly Fits in With Team USA

PHOTO BY JOHN STROHSACKER

Connor Kelly led Maryland with 46 goals last season and is one of just three current collegians on the U.S. men's national team.


The monkey is off Maryland’s back.

The Terps 9-6 victory over Ohio State for the NCAA championship in May ended 42 years of frustration, but Tewaaraton winner Matt Rambo is no longer wearing No. 1. Attack line teammates Colin Heacock and Dylan Maltz also graduated, with the trio taking their combined 475 points in a Maryland uniform with them.

On the defensive side of the ball, first team All-Americans Isaiah Davis-Allen and Tim Muller also graduated.

Where will the Terps turn next?

It’s a pretty good bet they’ll look directly to senior midfielder Connor Kelly, a returning first team All-American who keeps better and better.

How much better?

Kelly is one of just three collegiate players on the 49-member U.S. men’s national team roster, joining Denver’s Trevor Baptiste and Yale’s Ben Reeves. In the U.S. team’s Blue-White exhibition game last month, the first time Kelly ever wore a Team USA uniform, he poured in three goals.

This weekend, Kelly will be pulling double duty. On Saturday evening, he’ll suit up with his Maryland team as the Terps battle a split-squad U.S. team in the Team USA Fall Classic at US Lacrosse headquarters in Sparks, Md.. On Sunday, he’ll switch colors to red, white and blue as he plays with the U.S. team against Towson.







As one of the youngest players on the team, Kelly’s odds to make the final 23-player roster for the Federation of International Lacrosse World Championship in Israel next summer are long, but he’s already shown he belongs in the mix.

“He makes the plays available to him,” said U.S. team head coach John Danowski. “His confidence and ability to relax allow him to play at a high level.”

 

The U.S. training team faces off against reigning NCAA champion Maryland and NCAA semifinalist Towson at Team USA Fall Classic Oct. 7-8 in Sparks, Md. Buy tickets today at the US Lacrosse Member Store.

 

“This has been an honor and I’ve been trying to take advantage of every moment I’ve had,” said Kelly of his U.S. team experience that began with a July tryout session. “I’ve sort of sat back and watched and tried to take it all in. I’m so happy to be a part of this.”

Kelly says he plans to pursue lacrosse after college and veteran MLL players like Paul Rabil, Rob Pannell, Joe Walters, Ned Crotty and Matt Danowski have welcomed him with open arms.

On Saturday, he'll relish the chance to play with his Maryland teammates against his new teammates.

“I’ve watched Notre Dame and Denver get to play Team USA in the past and I’m very excited to have the opportunity to be on the other side,” Kelly said.

Kelly is coming off a season in which he led the Terps with 46 goals, continuing his upward progression in College Park. As a freshman, he had just five goals, but three of them came in a NCAA quarterfinal win over North Carolina. As a sophomore, he burst onto the scene with 31 goals to rank third on the team.

Last year, was a giant leap forward. Those 46 goals led all of the nation’s midfielders, and he shot a career best 42 percent, despite often cranking up from the outside.

More of the burden will shift to him with a younger attack line on the field, but Maryland’s mindset won’t change this year. Kelly said he didn’t feel pressure from the 42-year streak without a title, saying it just drove the team to work harder and never take a play off.

The victory over Ohio State was a day he called the best day of his life, but just like Maryland didn’t let past failures define the program, Kelly won’t let last season’s success stop his drive.

“Coach Tillman has said it best,” Kelly said. “We’re trying to put last year’s season to bed. We’re not a team that defends titles, we want to attack titles.”

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