Maryland played 15 games in the regular season. They won 12. They won a share of the Big Ten Regular Season title. They lost in the Big Ten Tournament semifinals. At one point they won 11 games in a row. They lost their last two in ugly fashion. How much of that matters now? None of it. Wipe the slate clean. It's all about the tournament now. Win the tournament and it's the most successful Maryland season in 40 years. Lose and even if it's not fair...it'll be seen as another failure. That's the nature of the game. Time for this Terps team to write their own May story that hopefully will end up with success on Memorial Day. But it all starts here. On Saturday against Yale. And the Elis will not make it easy.
Yale is a team that's terrific all across the board. They rank Top 10 in Goals Allowed and Massey ranks them as the 4th best defensive team in his ratings. They have a Top 20 offense including one of the elite attackmen in the country: Conrad Oberbeck. Oberbeck has 38 goals and 61 points on the season. And in that UMD-Yale game way back in February he burned the Terps for 5 points. He is incredible at using his athleticism and skill to dodge from behind the cage and score. And his running mate on attack, Ben Reeves, is really good too. 41 points on a fairly balanced 24 goals and 17 Assists. And that's what makes them so hard to stop. They're both great scorers AND feeders. Not just a goalscorer or a passer. Their two man and pick game is incredible hard to stop. Oh and then there is a pure goalscorer on the attack: Jeff Cimbalista. He has 30 goals and is a good outside shooter to boot.
It isn't just about stopping Oberbeck and Reeves though. You can cut off their avenues to the cage and this will limit the Elis offense. But they're a great shooting team too. 10th in the country in Shot Percentage. They have two guys in the Top 35 in Shot Percentage individually. The aforementioned Cimbalista who shoots 45%. And then their top point scoring midfielder, Eric Scott, who shoots 40%. In some cases...you have to stop the midfield to stop Yale. Oberbeck is going to get his. In the Bulldogs four losses this year...their first line midfield of Scott, Michael Keasey, and Shaun Shakeaspeare combined for just 15 points. If Maryland makes it hard on Yale's midfielders....they put more pressure on Oberbeck and Reeves. And the Terps D did get better at dealing with the two man and pick games from behind the cage towards the middle and end of the year after it being a big problem over the last couple of years.
On the Maryland side it's about possessions. Yale doesn't go super fast but they can turn it up and notch and are more versatile with the ways they can play offense. The Terps aren't. They almost have to grind it out. Muck it up. Get to 10 and let the defense do the rest. And if you don't have the ball you can't do this. The defense is put under too much pressure, a volume shooting offense can't get into any sort of rhythm and eventually it all comes crashing down. A la the 4th Quarters vs Hopkins and Ohio State.
This doesn't just come from Charlie Raffa's health. If he is healthy then the Terps have a good shot at winning the face-off battle and getting more possessions. But Maryland needs to clear better than they have lately and also not waste possessions. With an offense that has trouble scoring every possession needs to be maximized. Generate quality looks. On every possession. I know Maryland's a high shooting offense and that's how they play. But Eric Natale is a goalie with a 50% save percentage. Yale is a defense that tries to prevent quality looks getting towards it's lackluster goalie. More dodging from Henry West, more attacks from behind by Dylan Maltz. Matt Rambo needs to grab the bull by the horns and be this team's top dog. If these things happen, the possessions don't just turn into possessions but a sustained pressure that will hopefully pay dividends later on in what figures to be a very tight game.
The game will take place at 2:30 PM ET from Byrd Stadium. TV coverage will be provided by ESPNU and Online Streaming by WatchESPN. This is your place to discuss the game.