Scoring goals behind his back or behind his head comes naturally for Maryland’s Jay Carlson. He was taught to shoot every way possible by his father Chip, who played at Johns Hopkins.
“When I was younger, my dad told me to score however you can,” the sophomore attackman recalled Tuesday afternoon. “I remember playing in the backyard and my dad just fed me and I was just kind of having fun with it and it ended up working pretty well for me. So I just kept it going. It can be risky, but I just try to get it in the goal when I can.”
As the No. 9 and sixth-seeded Terps (10-3) prepare for Sunday’s first-round matchup in the NCAA tournament with Cornell (12-3), the Cockeysville native and St. Paul’s graduate has demonstrated his knack for scoring goals in unusual – and highlight reel-type – methods. He scored behind his back in the team’s 9-7 win against Virginia on March 30 and replicated that feat in the then-No. 9 Terps’ 18-6 demolition of Colgate last Saturday.
Carlson admitted that it took some time for the coaches to give him the green light to take such shots.
“In practice, they don’t want me to try to do [anything] too crazy,” he said. “In high school, I think I was a little more creative, but in college, I need to be more of an all-around player, and we don’t want to risk it. But still, there are some opportunities when I feel like I can get the ball in the net and there’s a good probability that the ball is going to go in. so I just do whatever I can – just like I’ve done my whole life.”
Coach John Tillman said he values results over style points. But he also acknowledged that Carlson has earned the coaches’ trust.
“Jay is one of those guys that sometimes make us bite our tongue because he’ll do it in practice and he does it pretty consistently and normally there’s a purpose to what he’s doing,” Tillman said Tuesday morning. “There’s some deception with the goalie. If he’s on one side of the goal when he shoots, the release point of when the ball leaves the stick is towards the middle of the field. So he’s actually increased his angle from where he could have shot if he had shot the traditional way. There’s some value to that, there’s some surprise element to the goalie, and there’s also some creativity. As much as we really believe that discipline and hard work and fundamentals here, we also don’t want to be so old school that we limit our players and we limit their ability to grow because there are some things we don’t see or some things we don’t traditionally do that guys are going to try. So if they start doing some unique things or different things, maybe that’s something the defense has to prepare for.”
Carlson’s 20 goals this season trail only redshirt junior midfielder Mike Chanenchuk (22) and senior attackman Owen Blye (22), but he has made just eight starts compared to 13 made each by his two older teammates.
Tillman compared Carlson to a tight end in football who can find seams in an opposing defense to catch a pass. Carlson, who has the bruises on his arms to prove his preference to play inside, said he is trying to expand his shooting range and become more difficult for opponents to defend him with a short-stick defensive midfielder.
“I’m just need to develop my outside shot on the perimeter, and the coaches and the other players definitely have helped me get better and be more of an all-around player.” Carlson said. “It took me a good amount of work because in high school, I was a crease attackman, and I didn’t even play that much on the perimeter. So the coaches and other players helped develop me and helped me work on my left hand on my outside shot. I think it definitely helped out.”Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times