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Maryland men's lacrosse preview: Terps return to College Park and face test from Villanova

After an indifferent performance in a 11-8 win over Stony Brook, #1 Maryland returns home and looks to notch win number 6 on the year in a Friday night tilt with the Villanova Wildcats.

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After winning two big back to back games over Syracuse and Duke, there was always the chance a young team like Maryland would struggle against Stony Brook and not quite roll them as expected. That was the case, just in a different form. The Terps got off to a very hot start, and led 9-2 at one point. With the lead at 9-3 after 3, it appeared as if Maryland would comfortably play out the 4th Quarter and take a rather easy W. Then the struggles kicked in.

Plagued by some sloppiness in possession and on GB's, and dealing with the temporary absence of FOGO Charlie Raffa, Stony Brook mounted a 4-0 run early in the 4th and the Terps had a bit of a dogfight on their hands. Raffa returned and Maryland would score two goals to ice the game, but the Stony Brook test showed all will not be easy as the Terps look to continue on a season which is rapidly approaching April, when you need to be playing your best lacrosse and putting your best foot forward for the conference and national tournaments. If this Maryland team wants to achieve big goals like winning an ACC Tournament and title and a high seed in the NCAA Tournament on a trip to Championship Weekend, they'll need to be able to fend off tests like that, but also be efficient in improving and putting those teams away. Now onto Coach Tillman's thoughts in his conference call.

In recapping the Stony Brook game Coach Tillman shared, "obviously happy to get a win over a very dangerous team, and an offense we feel is a very tricky one". Tillman also praised the coaching of the Stony Brook team and said he had a gut feeling they will cause some problems for teams down the road. Tillman was not happy however with the way the 4th Quarter started and said "obviously displeased with the way the 4th Quarter started like it did, but felt it was a real learning experience for our guys to show some character and resolve and be able to respond to their run and stick together, and I'm obviously proud of that".

He also mentioned, as he has in his previous pressers that the team still has things it needs to improve on. He was pleased however that he was able to get younger guys in the game such as Tim Rotanz and Lucas Gradinger and give them a chance to make an impact.

Tillman then moved on to previewing Friday night's game against Villanova and highlighted the threats the Wildcats pose such as their slickness and talent and in particular their defense, which he singled out for praise. "On the defensive end they return some of the best defensive players in their league, but also in the country, and a face-off guy who was first all-league, who gave us problems last year and I see no reason why it won't be again".

Todd asked Coach Tillman if there were any difference in preparation for this weeks game being a Friday night affair and not the usual Saturday afternoon one. He responded, "A little bit different atmosphere. We'll practice one night this week, looking at different tutor schedules and academic schedules and what's the best night for that". He said they would go on to practice Tuesday to get accustomed to the atmosphere and also said they had to move faster after the Stony Brook game than they usually would.

While their record doesn't stand out, the Wildcats are still a dangerous team and one who had strong expectations coming into the year. Nova is a very solid defensive team and as mentioned above, return quite a bit on the defensive side. A very senior laden group, mixed in with some energetic freshman are going to pose some issues for a talented, yet as you all know, young group.

On the offensive side there's no real "standout" figure for the Wildcats. They haven't accrued a lot of points on the offensive end, but have some balanced players. Kevin O'Neill is the leading points getter with 10. He has 7 goals, but also 3 assists. Frosh middie Austin Frederick has 8 points with 4 goals and 4 assists. Their defense will have to be solid though as they only average around 9 goals a game.

As shown last weekend, the Terps struggle quite a bit when Charlie Raffa isn't in the game. He's one of the top FOGO guys in the country and he is so important for this Maryland team. While they've shown a new bit of offensive explosiveness we didn't see at the end of last season the Terps are still an extended possession team. They still look for the right shot, and they're not a break-neck pace team. Therefore possessions are key. And in particular possession of the ball and GB's. When he's not in or they aren't winning FO's Maryland starts to struggle. They get sloppy, they misplay GB's, and they're not in the flow of the game. With Villanova also having a talented face-off game and FOGO man themselves in Brent Croonquist the face-off X will be a big area to watch in tomorrow night's game.

Another key will be Maryland's shot selection and the way they shoot the ball. In the Stony Brook game Maryland's shots were often high, well off target, and wild. Against a very tough defensive team in Villanova, it'll be important to get off good shots and have those shots test FR goalie Dan Willis in the Wildcats cage. If they take wild shots like they did vs the Seawolves and are off target as often as they were later in the 2nd half it could be a tough night. If they're efficient, and on target with their shots, the Terps will be in good shape.

Villanova is 1-3 on the year and have lost 3 games by a combined total of 4 goals. They're very close to being 4-0. They have their flaws, but they're a team that can give some of the better teams problems. Maryland should win this game and be able to pull away and win a rather comfortable 3-4 goal game. But Villanova will pose problems and it's a good test for Maryland as the season will heat up in a few weeks as April approaches.

Face-off is set for 7 PM Friday night at Byrd Stadium. Make it out the game if you can and cheer on the #1 ranked Terrapins. If you're not able too, Terps TV will have a stream but it is subscription based. Maryland will also likely make a live stats option available to follow along if you're not able to watch or be in attendance. If you are, cheer on the Terps in some Friday night action as they take on the Villanova Wildcats.