If one drives around the Baltimore beltway on any Saturday morning in the spring, you'll find fields with youth games featuring gobs of future college lacrosse talent. Players developing on these proving grounds don't just fine-tune their stick skills or ability to dodge, but rather evolve into athletes that understand the game on a higher level.

Jay Carlson is one of those guys. Playing with superior supporting talent his entire career has produced a player with instincts to burn, traits that were well on display in Carlson's spectacular three goal performance in Maryland's 9-7 victory at Virginia on March 30th.

"I think being born in Baltimore, watching my older brother [Chas] and my dad [Chip] play, really helped me get better," Carlson said. "Looking up to the players a few years older; it made me strive for excellence and to do as well as they did. Most of them went to the college level, and that became a goal for me."=

Most of [players I looked up to] went to the college level, and that became a goal for me.
-- Jay Carlson

Goal accomplished. The sophomore attackman has tallied 16 goals so far this season, already surpassing his total from his freshman campaign. Mostly used as a fourth attackman in his first season at Maryland,  he, says he is much more comfortable in his newfound starting spot.

"Last season, it was a little hard to get into the flow of the game, but this year I'm starting, so it's been easier to get in a groove. I've been able to develop lots of chemistry with the rest of the guys. I'm lucky enough to play with a bunch of great players, so that makes it that much easier."

Operating mostly on the crease, Carlson relies on his teammates to deliver him the ball in positions he can exploit. Once there though, it's the sophomore's job to finish in traffic, a place that Carlson has proved to be deathly proficient.

"I play with midfielders who are great at finding the open space and moving the defense," Carlson said. "Once I get it, I just have to trust myself."

Carlson has perhaps never trusted himself more than on his second goal against the Cavaliers. The sophomore's off-balance behind-the-back goal wowed the Klockner Stadium crowd and catapulted Carlson onto a national stage.

"I never thought the goal would get on SportsCenter," Carlson said. "That night my friend called me to say it was on. When I finally saw it, it was pretty cool."

A spot on SportsCenter's Top 10 plays is a thrill for any athlete, but Carlson hopes it is just another twist in a journey back to the national championship game, a place where he and his teammates have unfinished business. A champion at both the youth and high school levels in the hardest place in the country to win; there is no reason to think Carlson won't capture a trophy while at Maryland.

"We try to follow the seniors' lead. They set the tone. They have the energy," Carlson said. "They know what it's going to take to get back there. I have to keep improving my play and we have to keep doing what we're doing."