After last week's 15 TO's in a loss to North Carolina, no one stressed TOO much worry. We thought "Maryland won't turn it over that much again. They'll be fine". Well in the first half.....we were wrong. Maryland turned it over 13 times. It was an array of turnovers of all different kinds. Numerous dropped balls, running themselves into stick checks by the Virginia players, and just all around sloppiness. It was poor lacrosse and was ugly to watch. The Virginia defenders do deserve quite a bit of credit, Chanenchuk and Rambo found it very hard to get space to shoot. But Maryland's sloppiness, going 10 minutes without a shot at one point, was the big impact note of the first half.
One major note that was pointed out quite a bit by the ESPNU commentators was the match-up UVA used at the face-off X. They're not a very good FO team and with Raffa being one of the best in the country, it appeared Virginia would have a lot of struggles. If you look at the box score, they did. Raffa won tons of FO's. But what UVA did well was they long poled Raffa. They went with D Nate Menninger at the X. Well Menninger was only 5/16 on the day, what he did so well in the first half was the ability to prevent Raffa from creating transition opportunities. Outside of the opening possession of the game Raffa never was able to take it right down and get a shot on cage or even pass for a transition goal. He often had to work very hard to win them and Maryland was usually starting their offense in their own defensive end. It was a brilliantly stifling tactic from Dom Starsia and the Virginia coaching staff, it never allowed Maryland to get a good rhythm going and that paid dividends.
An issue during the 1st Quarter and early in the 2nd, but one that was sorted out before HT, was the Terps' rotating and sliding on UVA possessions. Virginia moved the ball very quickly and played quick passes to set up long range shots from M's like Zed Williams and even Attackman Rob Emery. The Cavs first 3 goals all came from long range snipes that Maryland failed to guard.
Maryland developed a bit of a rhythm at the end of the second half but still trailed 5-3. I commented and tweeted sarcastically that "on the bright side, Maryland can't play much worse". The Terps would proved that right. They couldn't play much worse, and the fact they were only down 2 was something they pounced on.
Raffa appeared to make some adjustments at the X and it helped Maryland set up their offense quicker and the rest carried on from there. Sharper passes, better off ball movement, and just better lacrosse.
Paul Carcaterra, the color commentator for ESPNU said it best.
The Terps are currently enjoying the rewards of playing clean lacrosse.
That's what it was for Maryland in the second half. A clean lacrosse game. They moved quicker, came up with passes, were making the right cuts and taking advantage of their opportunities. It was a welcome sight after 3 quarters of poor lacrosse, dating back to the UNC game. They played a complete second half, and showed how good they can be.
Maryland is definitely one of the most complete teams in the nation. They showed that on Sunday. The backbone of the team, the defense and goaltending, led by Niko Amato, Goran Murray, Casey Ikeda, and Michael Ehrhardt were fantastic. Conceding only 6 goals to a great UVA offense and giving up only 9 shots in the 2nd half is remarkable. But as I've said before, Maryland's offensive play makes or breaks them. As the quote from Hoya Suxa over at College Crosse that I plugged in the preview said, Maryland has the pieces and the impetus for a deep run in May. But it was about those guys stepping up. And they did. Connor Cannizzaro was fantastic in the 2nd half. A coming out party. Created, scored, and was an all around threat. Henry West proved himself to be a deadly sniper from the outside with a hat-trick. Maryland got 2 goals from Mike Chanenchuk and Matt Rambo.
And they won by 3.
This Maryland team was in need of a response and a big 2nd half to prove their mettle and worth, and what they had in the bag come May. That appeared to be a dangerous and deep tool kit, and it was very good to see. With the a big run coming up after Wednesday's Robert Morris game, Johns Hopkins-Notre Dame-ACC Tournament all in quick succession, this was something to give Maryland fans hope and show that this team can go on a deep run and is a realistic threat to make it to Championship Weekend.