After surviving a late push from Villanova and hanging on to take a 12-10 victory in a game they had dominated for the better part of 3 quarters and improving to 6-0 on the year, the #1 ranked Terps have a short turn around and travel to Michigan for a Tuesday afternoon tilt.
The Terps were red hot to start the Villanova game. They were up 7-0 after one in a complete team performance. Maryland would tally just 2 goals in the 2nd Period, but Maryland's defense was up to the task forcing numerous TO's and being very strong with their clearing game. Despite a Villanova push in the 3rd Quarter, Maryland still was comfortably ahead early in the 4th Quarter, 12-6. Then struggles kicked in for the Terps. Charlie Raffa again was a bit banged up and Maryland's offense began to slow down. Nova slowly chipped away and brought the game to 12-10 but Maryland hung on and came away with the victory.
The 4th Quarter troubles also occurred vs Stony Brook and are perhaps a refresher that while we do have the #1 team in College Park, it's still a very young one. 4th Quarter struggles aren't a huge surprise, especially as Maryland held big leads. But it's something the Terps would like to rectify as they approach the meat of their schedule.
Maryland's defense had their worst outing of the season goals wise on Friday, but also had an overall fantastic game. Casey Ikeda stood out forcing a few TO's and pushing the attack for transition goals. Michael Ehrhardt was again very strong at D Mid forcing TO's and disrupting the Wildcats attacks. But the fact that they still gave up 10 goals is a sign that the onus remains on this Maryland offense to keep it going and continue to get a fair amount of goals later in games.
Balanced scoring is a key for this Maryland team and was on show on Friday. Maryland had been over reliant on Mike Chanenchuk and Matt Rambo in the Duke and Stony Brook games, but with Connor Cannizzaro getting a hat trick and Colin Heacock chipping in with two goals, that was a very good sign of the number of options this team has and that they need to use if they're to progress far in the ACC and National Championships.
The Michigan game will be the perfect game for Maryland to keep that up as the Wolverines have struggled mightily on the defensive end this year, giving up an average of 12 goals a game.
Michigan founded their lacrosse program in 2012 and so far it's been a tough start for the Wolverines. The team went 1-13 in their opening season and didn't pose any threat to the tough teams on their schedule. The team finished 1-13 again in 2013 and the improvement was minimal. This year however the Wolverines have shown some slight signs of promise. Currently 4-4 on the year and in with a fight in the ECAC, Michigan lost by just 1 at home to undefeated and Top 10 Cornell. The Wolverines also beat in-state rival Detroit who made the NCAA Tournament last year, and Bellarmine in ECAC play.
The real threat Michigan poses is on the offensive end with quite a few dangerous offensive targets. Freshman A Ian King has shined so far with 17 goals on the year. Sophomore M Kyle Jackson also showed promise in a big game with Cornell, and has 15 points on the year (12 G, 3 A). Sr Thomas Paras is the Wolverines top two way player and has been equally effective scoring and distributing with 8 G and 7 A on the year. The Wolverines will pose a much different threat offensively than Villanova.
As mentioned above, the Michigan D has struggled mightily and it's been a rough year for FR G Robbie Zonino who has just a .457 save %. The Michigan D has a few upperclassmen but is comprised of mostly FR and SO and that presents a big opportunity for the Maryland offense. The Terps have to make sure to be very composed and smart on the ball. With the threats they have all over the field, and with a young Wolverine D, there will be plenty of opportunities from the point with Chanenchuk, the wing and alley dodges with Rambo, or Connor Cannizzaro closer to the net.
While Maryland handled the limited absence of Charlie Raffa at the face-off X on Friday (Henry West and Andrew Walsh took a few) better than they did in the Stony Brook game, committing fewer turnovers and playing an overall more composed game, he still is one of the 3 key components of this Maryland team, along with Niko Amato in goal and Mike Chanenchuk. He was very sharp when out there vs Villanova and if he's out there vs Michigan Maryland has a very good chance to once again jump out to a big lead.
Maryland should comfortably beat Michigan. I do expect the Wolverines to score 8 or so goals and maybe bring the score within 3-4 goals at one point or another. But Maryland is a far more complete team than the Wolverines, who are still building their lacrosse program and Michigan was blasted by Penn State and soundly beaten by Johns Hopkins. Maryland should easily win this game in the end.
With North Carolina away on Saturday, and then a home game vs Virginia, this is Maryland's last chance to iron out any chinks and deficiencies and be ready to put their best foot forward for the stretch run in this season.
Face-off is slated for 4 PM in Ann Arbor. There's no coverage for this game, but make sure to follow Maryland Lacrosse on twitter for updates (@MDTerpsLacrosse) to follow along as Maryland looks to beat future B1G foe Michigan and improve to 7-0 as their season heats up.