After making a huge early statement by thumping then #2 ranked Syracuse Orange 16-8 on the road in their first big test of the year, the Maryland Terrapins Men's Lacrosse team rose to #2 in the rankings and face another big test, this time vs the #1 team in the country, the defending national champion Duke Blue Devils. Duke lost some key members of that national championship winning team, but also returns quite a bit and has posted a 4-0 February, with wins over #5 Denver and #20 Penn. Like Syracuse last weekend, it's another big test for the Terrapins as Duke is a tougher match-up and poses different problems for this team. But the Baby Terps already passed their first big test with flying colors and it wouldn't be a surprise to see them pass this one as well and move to 4-0 on the year and pass the Blue Devils for the #1 ranking.
Coach Tillman's usual Tuesday press conference was pushed back to Wednesday. Tillman recapped the Syracuse game saying "it's always good to get a conference win against a very talented, well coached team". He was pleased with the groundball play, and as expected, the fantastic play of Charlie Raffa at the X and the wing play. "We really kind of gained some momentum in that 2nd period, felt very fortunate as we hit some few shots and got a victory in a place that's very difficult to play in". As usual though, Tillman was very quick to shift the focus to Duke this weekend and the difficult test that the Blue Devils will pose. Todd was on hand and asked Coach Tillman if it's a different approach with a younger team off the back of a big win as opposed to the more experienced teams he's had in College Park the last two years, to which Tillman said "I think the guys have realized a lot of what has been said about us, and where we've been placed and ranked, and I feel as if it's a pretty grounded team in general". He also mentioned though that with all the social media and internet and hype when you have a big win and emphasized staying focused and how each team brings a different challenge each week and that they need to continue working hard and keeping a sharp attention span.
While Charlie Raffa was fantastic at the face-off X on Saturday and garnered numerous offensive possessions for the Terrapins, it's not likely we'll see a re-occurrence of that going up against Duke's Brandon Fowler. Fowler is a fantastic face-off man in his own right and one of the best in the country. It's a much tougher test for Raffa as he hopes to not allow Duke to have the amount of offensive possessions as Maryland did for example vs Syracuse.
Duke has one of the best attack units in the country led by Jordan Wolf, who's registered 19 points to start the year (10 G, 9 A) and is one of the key returning players for the Blue Devils. He's joined by two guys who are no slouches themselves, Josh Dionne who has 12 points and is the main finisher in front for Duke with 10 goals, and Case Matheis who dictates the offense along with Wolf. They're a group that is extremely effective up tempo, running in transition trading shots and peppering the opposition's goal. Maryland effectively narrowed the passing lanes Syracuse had on Saturday and will need to do so again and try to frustrate them and force bad shots. Duke also has a talented midfield as well led by Sophomores Deemer Class and Myles Jones, with the latter presenting a serious match-up problem at 6'4", 240 lbs.
On the offensive side of the ball for the Terps, it'll once again be about spreading the wealth. Jay Carlson and Connor Cannizzaro both registered hat tricks but Maryland had 9 scorers for 16 goals in total and 5 multi goal scorers. Mike Chanenchuk will once again likely be the main creator for Matt Rambo to finish but watch out for work inside and down low from Cannizzaro and Carlson, who were both effective at doing so vs. Syracuse. It will also be key for the Terps to once again get effective shots and scoring when in slower sets and temp with Chanenchuk the main controller on offense and when they're running and in an up tempo offense, where we could see more from Henry West, Carlson, and Cannizzaro.
As usual for the Terps, Niko Amato will be a key and an advantage in the cage. Duke faced a very tough test and had difficulty getting the ball past Penn's Brian Feeney last week and if Amato could do something similar, as he's capable of, denying the Blue Devils of a few goals and setting up some quick transitions for goals and some 2 goal swings, it'd be a big plus for Maryland. Maryland also will likely have the advantage in the cage, as Duke has mainly employed a 2 goalie set but it's expected Luke Aaron will get the start.
Once again it's another big game for Maryland, a huge #1 vs #2 showdown as they welcome Duke one last time before they depart for the Big Ten, and like last week is the game of the week in college lacrosse. There's no TV coverage and as of yet no stream provided for ESPN3, so you'll have to cough up some change for Terps TV if you can't make it out to College Park and Byrd Stadium to cheer on the Terps. If you're not able to do that, the site will once again have coverage with scores and updates as the #2 Terps take on the #1 Blue Devils.