When the Terrapins men’s lacrosse defense is on the field, the unit is in constant communication. The Terps defenders direct one another through their formations, plays and rotations.

Over the chatter, though, the players can always hear one voice: associate head coach/defensive coordinator Kevin Conry, who is always shouting assignments and encouraging his defense.

“He brings so much passion to the table,” midfielder Isaiah Davis-Allen said. “Screaming and yelling, getting our team fired up.”

The enthusiasm has paid off for the fourth-year assistant coach. After the Terps’ defense ranked first in the nation en route to a national championship appearance last season, Conry earned 2015 IMLCA Assistant Coach of the Year honors and a promotion to associate head coach.

Through the first nine games of this year, the defense is a top-10 group, holding opponents to an average of 7.8 goals per game. The next test comes Sunday evening in State College, Pennsylvania, against a Penn State squad that averages 12 goals per contest.

“One of the strengths with Coach Conry is you always feel like you’re a lot tougher than the other team you’re playing,” Davis-Allen said. “You’re 10 times more ready.”

With the Terps not playing a midweek game before facing the Nittany Lions, the coaches have used the week for scouting their Big Ten foe and evaluating themselves.

Monday, Conry led a self-scout of his unit’s performance against Michigan. Though they limited the Wolverines to seven scores, head coach John Tillman wasn’t pleased with the team’s execution.

So the defense ran high-intensity footwork drills in practice. Conry wanted his group to get back to the fundamentals, which they hadn’t worked on while collecting three wins in an eight-day stretch. And the defense watched film to identify which areas of their scheme the Wolverines targeted during the snowy bout.

They spent the rest of the session watching film of Penn State’s offense to learn the tendencies of the individual players and coach Jeff Tambroni’s system.

“Sometimes guys maybe can overthink a strategy,” Tillman said. “If you overcomplicate it or you change things too much, you might be playing on your heels instead of just playing confidently and being aggressive, so [Conry] does a really good job of developing those strategies — ones they can comprehend, ones they can execute — and then practicing it all week.”

On game days, though, those plans sometimes require adjustments. Against the Wolverines, who entered the match after 10 days of preparation, Conry had to change the Terps’ scheme after Michigan showed looks on offense that Davis-Allen said “our team honestly just didn’t practice.”

That’s the type of situation in which Conry’s communication on the sideline helps. When his players sub out, Conry talks to them about what they’re seeing and how the current game plan matches the opponent’s tactics.

“There’s probably not a huddle that goes by that we’re not talking about tweaking something,” Tillman said. “We’re just updating the guys, ‘Hey, here’s what they’re doing. Here’s what we’re going to do.'”

Conry is prepared to do the same against the Nittany Lions, who boast five players on offense with at least 12 goals this season. Two weeks ago, Penn State recorded a 15-10 win against then-No. 1 Denver, which downed the Terps in the national title game last May.

Conry has spent the seven days leading up to the game working to ensure his unit doesn’t let the Terps’ six-game winning streak end. On game day, though, he knows it will be the Terps’ responsibility to execute the plans as he yells from the sideline.

“If they feel comfortable doing something, they’re the ones who are making it happen,” Conry said. “I trust those guys a lot.”