As Tim Rotanz spoke with the media before practice last Friday, coach John Tillman glanced at the Maryland men's lacrosse midfielder's red beard and shouted, "Leprechaun! Leprechaun!"
Rotanz does not possess magical powers, but he's notched back-to-back hat tricks and registered at least one score in six straight contests, prompting Tillman's comments. His recent play has guided the Terps to a five-game winning streak.
At No. 7 Ohio State on Saturday, the redshirt junior said he hopes to continue his torrid offensive stretch.
"He looks really comfortable," Tillman said. "He just seems to be making that trajectory. He's on that path that you would hope for a guy who this is year four for him."
In four of his first five games this season, Rotanz failed to find the back of the net. But he's transformed his play since he notched a hat trick in a loss to Villanova on March 18.
He's averaged two goals per contest during Maryland's winning streak. And in the Terps' 13-12 triple-overtime victory over Rutgers on Sunday, he netted twice in the first half before delivering a critical fourth quarter score. The goal gave the squad an 11-10 lead with 13 minutes remaining.
While teammates credited Rotanz's work ethic for his recent success, he admitted he's benefited by others drawing attention from him.
All six starting Maryland attackmen and midfielders have scored at least 15 goals this year, so opponents struggle to handle the unit. There are four long poles in college lacrosse, meaning teams must defend two of the Terps' first-line players using short-stick midfielders.
Often, Rotanz and either freshman Jared Bernhardt or attackman Dylan Maltz draw the short-stick matchup, which makes it easier for them to find open space. Those situations have helped Rotanz reach 15 goals and eight assists through 11 games, an improvement from the 11 goals and seven assists he tallied in 20 contests last year.
"It's definitely big," midfielder Connor Kelly said. "The short stick just gives you more room to dodge and room to operate. Get your hands free in order to make a play. So obviously Tim's been taking advantage of that."
But Rotanz's contributions have not been limited to the attacking zone. He's also chipped in when caught in defensive situations, collecting seven ground balls and causing three turnovers.
Defender Tim Muller attributed the midfielder's two-way ability to his help defense.
"[Rotanz] is very cerebral," Tillman added. "He's a guy that if he gets caught on defense, we're very comfortable with him back there. He plays a really good position, he's smart and he's good on ball."
Against Ohio State, which has earned two straight conference wins, the Terps will again look to Rotanz when more touted players attract defensive focus.
With a victory over the Buckeyes, No. 2 Maryland would clinch a share of its third-straight Big Ten regular season championship. While the Terps could also earn a part of the title with a win over Johns Hopkins in their season finale, they're intent on finishing the job this weekend.
"[Winning the Big Ten] is what we look forward to every year," Muller said. "That's one of the goals, is to win the Big Ten and win a national championship … If we can get it now, we want to go for it."