I've written these words before: Don't panic. Maryland will be fine - the 5-6 loss to Notre Dame in the ACC semifinal notwithstanding. The Terps will bounce back against Navy in a week or so and make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament. Though the Terps certainly would have liked to have gone out of the ACC with a tournament title, this game meant more to the Irish by several orders of magnitude. With that out of the way, let's take a look at Friday night's game.
Maryland's defense and Niko Amato. Playing six on six, the Terps' defense absolutely stifled Notre Dame. The Irish scored six goals Friday night. Three came on breakaway and unsettled situations. One came on an extra-man opportunity and a fifth came on a ball that bounced higher off the soggy PPL Park turf than any other ball all night. Unless he could see a second or two into the future, Amato was never going to make the save on that shot. Had the ball bounced the way it had all night, it doesn't get past Maryland's All-ACC goalie. So, with better decisions on offense and fewer turnovers The Terps likely hold Notre Dame to two or three goals.
Charlie Raffa. Sure, Raffa had a couple of turnovers but part of the Irish game plan was to attack Raffa aggressively and try to force him into those turnovers. Notre Dame head coach Kevin Corrigan said afterward, "Coming in we said, if he wins some balls, we've got to make sure that we get some turnovers." They succeeded twice in the first half. Still, after winning 20 of 24 on Saturday, Raffa won 10 of 13 Friday night. I, for one am willing to take my chances in any game with that percentage of faceoff wins.
Playing with intensity. The young Terps got a taste of playoff lacrosse Friday night. They saw the level to which their more experienced teammates and their opponent played and tired to match it. They will learn and improve.
Mike Chanenchuk and the turned ankle. This one has layers of bad on it. The game specific bad has two of those layers. One was Chanenchuk's performance. Clearly the senior was hampered in the second half. Playing on the wet field likely made planting on his ankle all the more difficult and we saw him slip down on multiple occasions. He also passed up a shot on an unsettled situation in the third quarter that I think a healthy Chanenchuk not only takes but converts. Tier two was the general stagnation of Maryland's offense with an ineffective Chanenchuk on the field. Though he is the acknowledged leader, the youngsters need to step up and the Terps need to adjust to playing without him.
The third and final layer is the questions the injury raises going forward. Will the Terrapins have a healthy Chanenchuk ready for a deep NCAA run and if not, how will they adjust their offense? As for Chanenchuk's status, Maryland head coach John Tillman said, "He obviously finished the game so that's a good thing. He went down pretty hard there. We'll take a look at it tomorrow and early in the week and see where he is then. Michael's had a lot of injuries historically and he's always fought through them pretty well. I assume he'll be back by the middle of next week but we'll probably be pretty careful with it."
Ramping up the intensity. Friday's game was intensely competitive on the part of both squads and Maryland played with intensity and hustle from the opening faceoff. However, as noted above, this game meant more to Notre Dame than it did to Maryland. The Irish desperation and intensity showed in their play in the second half. Said Corrigan, "We did raise our intensity in the second half. We had our backs to the wall. I don't think if we'd lost this game we were out of the (NCAA) Tournament but it sure is a harder road and we're looking for a lot of help from a lot of other people. We battled so hard we've put ourselves in a better position." The concern? Both teams started at a high level but when Notre Dame found their inner Nigel Tufnel, Maryland was still hanging with Marty DiBergi.
Shooting accuracy. Thirty-seven shots. Six goals. Enough said.
Not the reason the Terps lost this game but deserving of an observation.
Timer on. Timer off. The referees set the tone early for Maryland handing out two thirty second warnings on the Terps' first two possessions. Maryland was whistled for a third violation before the end of the first quarter. Despite frequent possessions of equal length, Notre Dame was warned only once for the game. The shot clock warnings then ceased until the Terrapins' final possession. Maryland called timeout with 1:16 to play in regulation. The thirty second warning came with 43 seconds to play. On what could have been the game's final possession, the officials inserted themselves by handing out the warning just 33 seconds after the resumption of play. Said Tillman diplomatically, "We came out of the timeout and we wanted to hold for the last shot. We felt like with the time being what it was there was a pretty good chance that we could get it down to late in the (game) clock and at least have the last shot. That was our mindset going in. You come out of the timeout and all we can do is look at the way the game has been played and assume it's going to be consistent. That's your mindset coming out of it. We felt like that's the way it's been most of the year. When the precedent's been set earlier, you just assume it's going to be the same. We had some lengthy possessions before and we just assumed it would be the same."
Some final thoughts
In the end, the Terps can address their offensive issues. The freshmen should no longer be considered freshmen and at least one of the should and will step up. Finally, if Raffa, and Amato and his defensive cohorts continue to play at the level they displayed in these last two games with Notre Dame, Maryland will be a very tough out in the NCAA Tournament.