Until he faced Michigan midway through his freshman season, Maryland men’s lacrosse defender Curtis Corley rarely saw the field.
But even though he didn’t feature much during games, Corley served as a hype man on the sideline, routinely jumping up in celebration after a big hit or ground ball recovery.
When the Terps scored, he would run across the field and meet a teammate with a chest bump. Coach John Tillman pointed out the celebrations during film sessions, acknowledging the rookie’s enthusiasm.
Late in the game against the Wolverines on April 2, 2016, Tillman made Corley Maryland’s faceoff specialist, a role he performed since high school. Corley responded to his first significant playing time with the Terps by winning four of five faceoffs in an 8-7 victory.
As the No. 2 Terps prepare to face former defensive coordinator Kevin Conry and the No. 15 Wolverines in Ann Arbor on Saturday in their first conference game this season, Tillman has praised Corley’s effectiveness in the faceoff X that day two years ago. It was the first indication Corley would thrive in an expanded role.
“Curt is always ready,” Tillman said. “He’s a high-intensity guy, very passionate and competes hard every day. That’s why from that moment on we felt like whenever we threw Curtis in there, he’d give us everything he could.”
Before his 2016 matchup with the Wolverines, Corley didn’t expect to play. When his teammates asked if he was going to wear black to accommodate the snowy conditions, he laughed and said he wouldn’t need it. After all, it was his job to create energy on the sideline, which he anticipated would keep him warm.
Maryland went into halftime trailing 4-3, having won just four of nine faceoffs. Corley, who’d been a backup faceoff specialist in practice, entered after the break.
“There was this flatness — we’re not really winning that many faceoffs,” Corley said. “It was a slugfest. I got one, got it down to them and it took a little bit off their shoulders. It took a little bit of pressure off.”
With Corley’s help, the Terps won five of nine faceoffs in the second half to help secure their seventh win that season. It was an unfamiliar position for Corley, who had never abruptly switched positions.
When the Terps arrived back in College Park, then-Maryland midfielder Bryan Cole told Corley how much the team fed off his success.
Corley received another faceoff opportunity against Johns Hopkins a few weeks later, but lost all three chances. He hasn’t taken a faceoff since. Now, he and Bryce Young anchor the team’s defense.
Last year, Corley took advantage of a lineup opening created by then-Maryland defender Mac Pons’ lower-body injury to start all 19 games and help the Terps win their first championship in 42 years.
“Going from not playing to a guy getting hurt and being thrown into the position to start, it was kind of like a shock,” Corley said. “I wasn’t really prepared to take that role last year. Later in the season, I felt more comfortable with more playing time.”
Corley’s energy hasn’t faded since taking on an increased role. He eagerly welcomed freshman faceoff specialist Justin Shockey to the team when Shockey tried to find a locker earlier this year.
Shockey, aware of the veteran’s history and imposing size, said he wants to avoid going up against Corley in the faceoff X in practice.
“He’s matched up against some of the best guy’s in the country week in and week out,” Shockey said. “I hope [I don’t have to face him]. He’s a big guy.”