Maryland fans had seen the movie before during the 3rd Quarter of the Terps First Round NCAA Tournament game against the Yale Bulldogs. The defense, often forced to carry the team and be it's backbone, eventually withers under the pressure of an opposing teams offense due to it's own offense's inability to cash in on possessions and light up the scoreboard enough.
They have also seen the 4th quarter. Where a gutsy, high character, resilient Terps team battles back, gets into a groove on offense, reels off a couple big goals in a row and comes from behind to pick up a big win. They did it last year in the same spot. Down four goals to Cornell at HT and three goals at one point in the second half; at home, in a 1st Round Tournament game. That afternoon the Terps came back to win 8-7 on a last second Mike Chanenchuk goal. Against Yale they also came back to win 8-7 in shall we say, controversial fashion.
Last season that win booked a Quarterfinal game in Hempstead vs upstart Bryant. This year it booked a showdown with the No. 3 North Carolina Tar Heels. But the Terps will have two things going for them: A game in Annapolis where they should bring a healthy contingent of fans. And the knowledge that they beat the Tar Heels earlier in the season.
This Quarterfinal game will take place at 2:30 PM ET Sunday from Navy Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis on the campus of the United States Naval Academy. Maryland's last NCAA Tournament game from Annapolis ended with a 12-5 Terps win over Johns Hopkins in 2012. They beat Navy here earlier in the season 8-1.
ESPN2 is your spot on TV. WatchESPN is your spot on your computer/tablet or on your phone if you're traveling. This will be your place to discuss the game.
Not much has changed for the Tar Heels since that meeting out in California in March. They're still an incredibly explosive offense, perhaps the best in the nation. 5th in Massey's Ratings. 2nd in Scoring Offense. 2nd in Assists Per Game. 2nd in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency. 9th in Shooting Percentage. They do absolutely everything right and throw the kitchen sink at you for all 60 minutes, which usually results sees your defense combust as the Heels put goal after goal on the board in all different sorts of ways.
Despite UNC's vast array of ways to score goals and numerous options, it's still an offense run and dominated by it's two Senior Supernova's: Jimmy Bitter and Joey Sankey. Bitter, previously just a tremendous lefty finisher - 65% of his points from 2012-2014 were from goals -, has morphed himself into becoming one of the best all around attackmen in the country and a sure fire All American on one of the three teams. He's still got an incredible ability to crank up low to high shots from the wing and bulge the back of the net from the outside but he's gotten even better at driving to the cage and is especially improved feeding the ball. He's got 40 assists on the year, tops on the team. He has 76 points in total and is going to require a do-it-all defender to stop. Oh and if it's not enough to deal with, how about the greatest point scorer in the history of Carolina lacrosse? Joey Sankey's turned in another sterling year, going for 37-31-68 and once more been the main maestro of this UNC offense. He controls the tempo from behind the cage, purposefully waiting for whether to slow it down to a ridiculously slow halt that gets people wanting a referendum on the rules of the sport or burning past you with dodges from Goal Line Extended. Capable of finishing with either hand on a low angle shot and finding the extra man cutting to the cage, he's a nightmare to do deal with. If you can stop their drives to the cage and ability to dictate pace then you can put the onus on the Carolina midfield which while deep is a strictly shooting midfield and not any threat to pass the ball. it's easier said than done though.
Carolina's only lost three times this year so it's hard to discern a trend or "way" to beat them. Teams lose games. It happens. And all of Carolina's losses were to good teams. Two were by one goal to Notre Dame and Syracuse and they could've won those games. But if you can slow down the tempo of the game vs Carolina and kind've make it a slog....it doesn't benefit them. The two times they were held below 10 goals this year, vs Maryland and Syracuse...they lost. The two games they were held below 35 shots? They lost. Their goal differential is +5 in games in which they've had 40 shots or less. It's a small sample size. But when the game gets slowed down, and Maryland is a team who can slow the game down....things don't always go to plan for the Tar Heels.
For Maryland, the best way to do that obviously starts with face-offs but does not end there. Charlie Raffa was tremendous in the first meeting, winning 15-of-22 draws. But it also comes from stops on the defensive end. And just speeding things up a bit. It seems weird to say, considering how above I mentioned that if the game becomes a slog it hurts UNC. But if the Terps can find a goal or two in transition, force a turnover or two more and generate quality scoring chances and shots, not just shots for shots sake, then the possession advantage they need can really start to play an impact on the game. Charlie Raffa at the X, turnovers on the defensive end, and Isaiah Davis-Allen and Matt Neufeldt pushing the pace a bit in the open field could be big factors for Maryland.
On offense I think Maryland needs to see an assertive Matt Rambo. He was too passive against Yale. Too often he was at the top of the circle and out of his element. He can't use his strength that way. And while Bryan Cole did a good job as an inverted midfielder - where a midfielder essentially plays as an attackman - when he ended up in that situation, Maryland needs more individual dodges from their midfielders. Rambo can certainly bull dodge from the wing and from behind. Not from the top. The more Matt Rambo is assertive from GLE, from the wing, and wherever he has the ball in a fortuitous position, the better off Maryland are.
Seven goals were scored from the Terp midfield last Saturday. That's a very strong # and one that if duplicated could go a long way towards Maryland's upset bid. A few more assists from Joe LoCascio and maybe even Henry West also would be a big bonus for UMD.