Maryland's road to the NCAA lacrosse tournament third round just got a little bit easier. Instead of playing a seeded, 11-4 Princeton team at their campus, the Terps will face a Notre Dame team that went 7-6 in the regular season and are farther away from home than Maryland. That's because the Fighting Irish - who snuck into the tournament with a record barely above .500 and many thought stole a bid from a more deserving Georgetown team - upset Princeton today, 8-5.
Notre Dame is an easier matchup than Princeton for a few reasons sort of mentioned above. For one, they're not playing a virtual home game, like Princeton would've been. And while they might've beaten Princeton today, it's not likely that they're a significantly better team, at least not if the regular season means anything. They were just 7-6 and had exactly one marquee win - Duke - that was the first game in the season.
ND has a much more defensive approach than Hofstra, whom Maryland just beat, sports. They're strong in the midfield and defense, but lack any substantial amount of attacking firepower. They're outside the top 30 in the NCAA in both goals per game and man-up offense; if Maryland can turn it into a shoot-out, Notre Dame won't be able to keep up. Then again, they didn't get here without some sort of calling card, and it's defensive acumen. They're in the top 15 in both scoring defense and man-down defense, which is pretty impressive.
David Earl was the offensive star of the day for Notre Dame against Princeton. He had 4 goals, and is indeed one of their better players along with Zach Brennamen, Grant Krebs, and Earl Hicks. The scary thing for the Irish is that those four are the only legitimate offensive players on the team, and they're the only ones that made any noise against Princeton. That was enough against a team that mirrors their style - Princeton is defensively-oriented - but will it be enough against one of the better offensive teams in the country?
It'll be an interesting battle. Maryland's an talented team on the attack, so the game is a meeting of strengths to some extent. No game in the second round is a gimme, but if you asked me if I'd rather play Notre Dame or Princeton, I'd take Notre Dame every day of the week.
The game will be on Saturday at either noon or 2:30, and will be on ESPNU. We'll keep you posted on new stuff throughout the week.