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Maryland Men's Lacrosse Preview: Terps vs. Princeton

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Maryland faces its third Ivy League opponent this year, welcoming the Princeton Tigers to Byrd Stadium.

Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

When the schedule came out and I saw Princeton on it for the second week of March, I was absolutely psyched. Princeton's one of the iconic programs in the history of the sport. Those are the teams you want your team to play. I wasn't too sure that the Tigers would be fielding a terrific team... but it was still Princeton. Now, here we are, with snow still on the ground. It's time to push the season back, guys. Enough is enough and No. 10 Princeton comes to Byrd Stadium to take on No. 9 Maryland. It's sort of a statement game for both teams. Maryland lost its lone game to a top-10 team and it could use a win over another. Princeton wants to prove its W over Johns Hopkins, which is my early season Game of the Year, is a sign of things to come.

This game will truly be a strength vs. strength battle between the Maryland defense and the Princeton offense. Despite the loss of Goran Murray due to ineligibility and Michael Ehrhardt and Niko Amato to graduation, the Terps defense hasn't skipped a beat. They're first in the country in scoring defense, allowing a mere 5.25 goals per game. Last Saturday against Drexel, the Terps held the former to a scoreless drought of 56:17. They're a vintage John Tillman defense. They're quick and terrific at pressing defenders and forcing turnovers -- the Terps are 17th in the nation in caused turnovers per game with 7.50 -- but when need be, they can switch to a zone and force tough shots. The latter usually occurs on opponent extra man opportunities.

On the other side, Princeton had to deal with losing a tremendous player of their own. Midfielder Tom Schreiber, who scored 30 goals and had 51 points last year, and had 200 points in his Princeton career, graduated. The Tigers got to just one NCAA tournament with arguably the best midfielder college lacrosse has seen this decade. This hasn't hurt PU's offense one bit though. They rank seventh in the country in scoring offense with 14.67 goals per game. They have five players on their team with over 10 points through their first 3 games. They're top three attackers --Mike Macdonald, Ryan Ambler, and Gavin McBride -- have combined for 24 goals and 40 points. They're top two midfielders, Kip Orban and Zach Currier, have a total of 16 goals and 24 points. This offense is loaded with weapons all over the field.

While the Princeton offense is going to be incredibly hard to stop... the Tigers defense has some major flaws. They've given up an average of 10 goals per game so far, and they are prone to taking loads of penalties. An endless string of penalties is what led to Johns Hopkins getting back in the game vs. the Tigers last Saturday despite being down 7-0 in the first quarter. They also showed flaws with their wing defense on man-ups, as Patrick Fraser of JHU scored four goals, all from the same spot. Left wing, low to high, past Eric Sanschagrin in the PU cage. PU allowed eight goals from Hop's midfield. This could bode well for a Maryland defense that does rely quite a bit on its midfield scoring, most notably from Joe LoCascio and Henry West. Both are snipers that love to drive down the alley and fire off shots. If they can chip in with goals... this will without question open things up for Matt Rambo and Dylan Maltz, who will operate the offense down low. And we can't forget about Jay Carlson, who scored four goals against Drexel Saturday and is looking like a whole new player. He's added new wrinkles to his game including dodges from behind the cage and a strong shot from the right alley. This to go with his usual goals in front of the cage off rebounds.

While Maryland's offense isn't as explosive as Princeton's it is starting to show a very nice balance. And that balance is what could bode well for the Terps on Saturday and lead them to put up a strong number of goals. They'll also have the advantage in goal, with Kyle Bernlohr leading the nation in save percentage at .683. It's obviously early and that number will surely go down....but it blows Niko Amato's .564 out of the water.

The game will take place at 12 p.m. from Byrd Stadium. There will be a live stream available by BTN Plus. (You do have to pay.) There's also a live stats page available as well.