Last week was certainly one that got the heart racing for Maryland lacrosse fans. The Terps played two down-to-the-wire, nerve-racking games against Loyola and Rutgers. Thankfully the Terps got through them with W's, albeit only by a goal each. But W's they were. The win over Rutgers moved Maryland to 3-0 and in a tie for first place in the Big Ten. It can break that tie this weekend when they play the No. 11 Ohio State Buckeyes. The winner takes the No. 1 seed in the Big Ten Tournament which will take place two weeks from now at Byrd Stadium. Now let's take a look at the Buckeyes.
Ohio State's offense has an interesting dichotomy to it. On one hand, it only averages nine goals per game. That also includes getting shut out -- yes, SHUT OUT -- by Notre Dame. On the other hand... there are some really freaking good players on this offense. Jesse King is the quarterback and leader. While he plays on its first midfield line, he loves to invert, where a midfielder plays from behind the goal or at goal line extended. He has 30 goals on the season and a total of 48 points. Then, on attack there's Carter Brown, a Junior from Bel Air, Md. Brown has 26 goals and is at 39 points for the year. David Planning is a great shooter from the midfield as well and he has 27 points. Buckeyes coach Nick Myers has described his offense as including some traits from what you see in basketball. They love to pass the ball around the perimeter and find looks inside. Against Notre Dame you could say they did it too much. Their offense is pretty patient, solid overall, but not going to light the world on fire. Sound like anyone?
The defense for Ohio State is very solid, averaging just 7.7 goals per game. It can give up lots of goals if it gets dragged into an up-and-down-the-field, fast-paced game, but you shouldn't expect that to happen vs. Maryland. It has held teams under 10 goals in nine of its 13 contests on the season. In goal is sophomore Tom Carey. Carey's save percentage is a very solid 56 percent, good for 19th in the country. Sound like anyone?
The Buckeyes have allowed 10 goals per in their last four games against Notre Dame, Penn State, Hopkins, and Michigan however. Two of those offenses -- PSU and Michigan -- aren't exactly explosive. And they are prone to sleepy spells on offense which can put their defense under pressure. Take the Towson game for example. While a very solid W, they only scored seven goals. This forced a heavy load on their D. And Maryland's got more talented players on offense. They also can be too late with their slides which leaves shooters open -- Ryan Brown dropped eight on them -- and that bodes well for a Maryland team with lots of guys who love to fire the ball on goal from the perimeter.
Keys for the Terps will likely be what they always are. Win face-offs, shoot a solid percent, hopefully better than their 25.6 which is nearly 3 points lower than the national average, and get to 10.
Normally the face-offs would be something Maryland could be very confident in but this week, much like last, it could be a worry. There's still no clear update on Charlie Raffa and once again it seems like he's a game time decision. While Christopher May for Ohio State isn't Joe Nardella from a face-off win percentage stand-point (Nardella is at 67 percent, May is at 64 percent), he ranks 10th in Patrick McEwen's FOGO ratings for Inside Lacrosse.
Jon Garino ranks 16th in those rankings, and did do a great job in the second half vs. Rutgers by going 9-for-13 and 4-for-5 in the fourth quarter. But in the first half he won just one of eight face-offs. This allowed the Scarlet Knights to dominate the pace of play and keep the ball out of the hands of Maryland's offense for long stretches. With their methodical, conservative offense it is likely that Ohio State will try to do the same. So, it will be imperative for Garino to get off to a better start if it's him at the X for the Terps. If it's Raffa... that's only good news.
In its last two games against Loyola and Rutgers, Maryland shot 29 percent combined. That's above the national average of 28.4. As I mentioned above, normally they are below that mark. Maryland's offense is naturally methodical and patient. Hoya Suxa over at College Crosse described them as hyper conservative. And while I don't feel like they're totally similar to Terp teams of the past that emphasized shots from the outside, less turnovers and therefore didn't work inside with their attack enough... they do still love to fire it from the outside. I think they can manage to do both with the midfielders they have. LoCascio and West are both very good dodgers. If they can become good passers off dodges as well, to set up opportunities for Carlson inside and maybe Maltz... this means a higher shot % and that could mean an extra two to three goals per game. With this defense.. that'd make Maryland even harder to beat than they already are.
The game will start at 11 a.m. on Big Ten Network.