Maryland Men's Lacrosse Preview: Lacrosse's greatest rivalry returns

Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

On Saturday at 2 PM ET, the greatest rivalry in college lacrosse returns. For the 111th time, #3 Maryland meets #8 Johns Hopkins.

When you're a program with such a storied history like Maryland, and having played in the premier lacrosse conference in the nation, the ACC, for so long, you have many rivalries. Duke, Virginia, North Carolina. You have in-state rivalries with powers falling on hard times like Navy. A solid program that makes occasional forays into The Big Barbecue in UMBC, and a downtrodden program like Mount Saint Mary's.

But for Maryland, there's one rival that stands above all of those. The one rivalry with more history, passion, and bragging rights on the line than any of those rivals. For the Terps, that rival is Johns Hopkins. The two have met 110 times, and first played in 1895. They've combined for 9 NCAA titles, and 37 Pre-NCAA Era championships. Maryland and Johns Hopkins are two lacrosse powerhouses, in a hotbed state for the sport. Add in the history, the talent, and the passion, and you get the greatest rivalry we have in college lacrosse.

During his conference call this week, John Tillman called it a big week with a "traditional rivalry" coming up and talked about all the JHU-UMD rivalry has done for lacrosse, and the history it has. Tillman called Hopkins a "very talented team, a well coached one" and said "we're working very hard in preparation for this game, it's a big opportunity to us, to go up to Homewood Field and play in a big rivalry game".

Todd asked Coach Tillman if he was able to give some players any rest with the extended break and if there was a difference in intensity in practice with the Hopkins game coming up this weekend. He responded with: "Yeah, we were able to give some guys a bit of a break who had some bumps and bruises with the break, playing Wednesday and not having another game until this Saturday". There are downsides however as he brought up the break being a detour in regards to routine. "The difficult part is it's a break in routine, as you build yourself up into this routine and you have a break in that".

Coach did confirm that there has been more intensity this week, saying "Yeah, the guys were definitely excited to get back on the field and I think they recognize just how talented this Johns Hopkins team is. You watch how they played vs Albany in that first half.....that was one of the best halves I've seen in a long time".

We've hit the key moment in Maryland's season. A huge two week stretch will begin Saturday, starting with the Johns Hopkins game at Homewood, a conference showdown on the road vs Notre Dame on April 19th, and then the ACC Tournament on April 25th/27th. All 3 (potentially 4, provided Maryland wins their ACCT Semi) games have a huge impact on Maryland's post-season seeding and momentum heading into the tournament.

It was at this point last season where Maryland, then #1 in the country, basically stopped building their resume. They lost at home to JHU, got blown off the field by Virginia in the ACC Tournament, and didn't gain another marquee win. They slid to a #6 seed in the tournament and got a horrible match-up vs Cornell.

Maryland has plenty of opportunities to build their resume towards The Big Barbecue in May. Johns Hopkins would be a Top 10 RPI win. Notre Dame would be a Top 20 RPI win. Win the ACC Tournament, and the Terps are assured of a Top 4 seed. Win them all, and Maryland's the #1 seed and has LOADS of momentum heading into the NCAA Tournament. It all starts on Saturday at Homewood.

Dissecting Johns Hopkins

Offense:

The Blue Jays boast one of the best top attacking lines in the nation, with Ryan Brown, Wells Stanwick, and Brandon Benn. Brown (30 G, 11 A) has been the break-out star, moving to Attack in his Sophomore season, and has scored 30 goals as a prolific sniper but an all-around dangerous player. Wells Stanwick (11 G, 29 A) is one of the best creators in the country, causing loads of problems behind the cage. He has a fantastic dodge from behind the net, but lays down his mark with a superb eye for a pass and is the orchestrator for many of JHU's offensive sets. Often the beneficiary of those is Brandon Benn (22 G, 5 A). Benn is Hopkins main inside threat, finishing closer to the goal with a sharp release, but also a very good wrist shot. It's very difficult to stop this group from getting theirs.

Where you can hinder the Blue Jays offense though, is from their lack of support from their midfield. Outside of Holden Cattoni's 16 goals, Hopkins midfield production is slim. Rob Guida and Connor Reed have combined for just 29 goals. The lack of production from the Senior Guida, one of JHU's best players in their fantastic 2012 campaign, is what could keep JHU from making a deep run in May, should they get in the tournament.

If Maryland is able to lock down Stanwick behind the goal, and keep Brown and Benn relatively quiet, they can put the onus on a struggling Hopkins midfield

Defense:

The Blue Jays are strong on the defensive end, coming in 21st in "Goals Against" with 9.2 GA per game. They have an experienced group at the back end, led by Jack Reilly and Michael Pellegrino at LSM. While JHU is good, they struggle when a team is able to develop a rhythm and holds a sizable advantage in FO's. See their game vs North Carolina. In the first half, the Tar Heels were sloppy on GB's and Hopkins dominated at the X, going 13/14. Hopkins led 7-5 at the half. R.G. Keenan was able to take-over through the 3Q, and once UNC got going on offense, they peppered Erich Schneider in the cage and scored 5 goals in a row to take a 10-7 lead.

When JHU experiences a disparity in possessions, and is put under pressure, they have troubles. Schneider is a shaky goalie, and for a Maryland team who likely will see a healthy possessions advantage, and has numerous threats from range in Chanenchuk, LoCascio, and Rambo, this is a big advantage.

Keys for Maryland

  1. Be very sharp behind the cage defensively vs Stanwick, and prevent him from dodging from behind it. Do this, and you make him a one dimensional player. He's just a passing threat. He's still very good, but it diminishes the threat he poses.
  2. Be very sharp defensively inside. They can't let Benn get free shots or lay-ups. If you cut off his lane to the net, you force him to be something he's not, which is an outside shooter.
  3. Both the keys above all essentially tie into the same thing. Keep Stanwick, Benn, and Brown quiet. They're going to get theirs. But keep them relatively quiet, and you have Hopkins in trouble.
  4. Do well on GB's and FO's. If Maryland wins loose balls and holds a healthy advantage in possessions, they'll put JHU under siege, where they are likely to crack.

Prediction

For the first time this year, I'll play prognosticator. I've got Maryland coming out on top 11-7 over JHU.

There's no better rivalry in college lacrosse than Johns Hopkins-Maryland. It's the pinnacle. And there's no better place than Homewood Field, and no better game than this one for the Terps to step it up and end the season on a high heading into the Big Barbecue.

Face-Off is set for 2 PM and the game will be televised on ESPNU. There will be a GameThread provided to discuss the game as well. So come join us, and watch the Terps take on the Blue Jays.

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