It's hard to imagine the Maryland lacrosse program in a shambles, but that is the way the 1980 program has been described by a number of players still on the team this season.

Maryland's record for the past 10 years speaks for itself -- two NCAA championships, nine consecutive NCAA tournament appearances, eight ACC titles and an overall record of 101-26. The program, however, was being eaten away from the inside, according to the Terrapins.

By the end of last season, the 11th under Coach Charles (Buddy) Beardmore, few people with connections to Maryland lacrosse had anything positive to say, and some players were not talking to the coach. Beardmore reportedly lost interest in coaching while becoming involved in the outside business he eventually joined full time last summer.

The Terps finished 5-5 in 1980 and, although they tied Virginia for the ACC crown, for the first time since the inception of the NCAA lacrosse playoffs in 1971, Maryland was a postseason spectator.

"It was a little attitude problem stemming down all from the coach," said junior cocaptain Don Sadler recently. "He just didn't care."

The problems eventually extended off the field and to personality conflicts between the coach and players.

Beardmore, after 19 years in coaching, now has little more involvement than watching his sons play. He denied there was a problem with either the program or with individual players in his final season.

"I'm very, very sorry to hear those young men say that," said Beardmore about his level of interest. "I was very devoted to the Maryland lacrosse program all the time I was there."

As for communications problems, there were "none that I perceived," he said.

Maryland has made a quick recovery from last season.

New Coach Dino Mattessich has the Terps hovering near the top of college lacrosse. Fifth-ranked Maryland is 5-0 against NCAA competition (6-0 overall) after winning the Loyola Invitational Tournament last weekend with two easy victories. The veterans who were uneasy last season can't wait for this Saturday's encounter at Byrd Stadium with second-ranked North Carolina (3-0), a team Maryland has defeated 17 straight times.

"We really didn't make any wholesale changes," said Mattessich. "I don't think there is (the pressure). There's only one team that wins the national championship each year. I'm assuming they (the administration) like that philosophy or they wouldn't have hired me."

Mattessich was a member of the Maryland NCAA championship team of 1973. After three years as head coach at the University of Baltimore, he joined the Terps last year as an assistant coach in charge of defense. He has made some position changes, but the players are not griping.

Peter Worstell, a first-team all-America last year as a midfielder, was moved to attack. He has responded by becoming the team's top point producer with 13 goals and 10 assists.

"It's a brand new face," Worstell said. "Overall, last year was just a bad year on everyone's part. The expectations were always so high, but when you look down deep, the talent really wasn't there."

Mattessich is counting on the versatibility of many of his first-line players to make up for a deficiency in recruiting created, in part, by his late hiring in July.

"You can't play in the past. That might have been the problem last year," said Mattessich. "I get as emotional about lacrosse and want to win as much as anyone else, but I don't want them (the players) to think that lacrosse is the only thing in their lives."

A former midfielder, Mattessich set out to build a solid midfield with the talent he had. He moved Sadler from defense to the middle, and Sadler has responded with sharp stickwork and a team-high 17 assists. He has stuck with a sometimes-erratic John Thompson at another midfield spot, and Thompson has scored 15 goals, already surpassing his 13-goal total of last year.

Joining Worstell as the key men on attack are Ron Martinello (17 goals) and sophomore Jim Wilkerson, a five-goal scorer in a 19-6 win over Bucknell in the Oyola tournament.

The defense has had little work of late as the Terps fired 55 and 84 shots in their last two games, but Mark Wheeler, Lee Boddery and Wingate Pritchett have been aggressive. Curtis Rountree, counted on as the team's top defenseman, is lost for the season with a knee injury. The goalie combination of freshman Kevin O'Leary and last year's starter, Richard Shassian, has proven to be a strong point.

Jim Dietsch, the academic advisor for all Maryland athletics, has been added as a full-time assistant coach and Mattessich said that is one change helping already.

Saturday is the real start of the season for the Terps. Although a victory would clinch at least a tie for the ACC title, Maryland's path to a tournament bid gets no easier, with fourth-ranked Virginia, 15th-ranked Hofstra, eighth-ranked Navy and top-ranked Johns Hopkins following in succession.