No. 1 Maryland men’s lacrosse returns home to College Park to face No. 20 Princeton on Saturday afternoon.
The Terps have a 3-0 record after an emphatic 14-10 win over No. 9 Syracuse in their first road game of 2022. Maryland was tested after multiple Syracuse runs shortened its lead, but a strong fourth-quarter performance sealed a victory for the Terps. Maryland was led by fifth-year attacker Logan Wisnauskas with four goals and had eight different goal scorers on the day.
“Playing by committee and having two lines going out there and scoring is big for us,” graduate midfielder Jonathan Donville said. “I think it shows late in games when we’ve been able to roll a lot of guys throughout the game and our legs are a little fresher by the fourth quarter.”
This week’s matchup against Princeton marks the third straight week that Maryland will face a ranked opponent.
“You want to play the best. That’s why we’re at Maryland,” senior defenseman Brett Makar said.
While Maryland and Princeton have only faced each other three times since 2006 (Maryland won all three contests), Maryland head coach John Tillman had some signature games against the Tigers during his three years as head coach at Harvard, including the program’s first win over Princeton in over 20 years in 2010. With a win on Saturday, the Terrapins would improve to 4-0 for the fifth time in the last six years.
The game is slated to start at 1 p.m. and will be streamed live on Big Ten Network Plus.
No. 20 Princeton Tigers (2-0)
2020 record: Season canceled due to coronavirus pandemic
Matt Madalon is in his sixth season as head coach after taking over as an interim head coach at the end of the 2016 season. Throughout his time at Princeton, Madalon has put together the second-highest win percentage at the school in the last 70 years. That success is due to Madalon’s ability to bring in elite talent, including the school’s all-time leading scorer in Michael Sowers. COVID-19 led to Madalon losing the opportunity to complete a full season with arguably his best team, as his 2020 squad was undefeated and ranked No. 2 in the country when the season was canceled.
“You could argue that when [the season] got stopped in 2020, [Princeton] was the best team in the country,” Tillman said.
Princeton, like the rest of the Ivy League, didn’t have an opportunity to play last year after the league canceled the 2021 season because of concerns related to COVID-19. This, along with the premature cancellation of the 2020 season, has led to a lot of uncertainty about what to expect from teams like Princeton that are usually among lacrosse’s best. That being said, the Tigers have looked the part of a ranked team so far this season, starting the season with two straight wins against Monmouth and Binghamton. The Tigers scored 22 goals and allowed less than 10 in both games.
Players to watch
George Baughan, senior defenseman, No. 17. As the anchor of the Tigers’ defense, Baughan has established himself as one of the elite defenders in the Ivy League. In his three seasons at Princeton, Baughan has finished no worse than third in the Ivy League in caused turnovers per game and is a two-time All-American. He forced three turnovers in the team’s opener against Monmouth and also scooped three ground balls. As one of the nation’s best defensive players, Baughan was included on the 2022 Tewaaraton Award Watch List.
Chris Brown, senior attacker, No. 6. Brown has been dynamic since he stepped foot on Princeton’s campus. He has started and scored a goal in every game of his career, the longest current goal-scoring streak in Division I. Brown has over 75 career goals and over 40 career assists, including the seven goals and seven assists he already has just two games into this season. He is also key in the ground ball game, leading the Tigers in ground balls before the 2020 season was canceled.
Jake Stevens, junior short stick defensive midfielder, No. 14. Despite playing most of his time on defense, Stevens made use of his short stick and fired in seven goals in Princeton’s first two games. He also totaled seven ground balls. Stevens’ ability to flip the field from the defensive to offensive end makes him a uniquely dynamic player and a particularly difficult matchup for opponents. Maryland’s entire team, no matter the position, should expect to get very familiar with Stevens on Saturday.
The midfield. The Tigers returned three starters to the midfield this season in Stevens, Beau Pederson and Alexander Vardaro. Additionally, players like Sam English and Luke Crimmins have already scored multiple goals this season, English also contributing five assists. The midfield plays a key role as the catalyst of their offense. While Princeton does have some inexperienced units on their team, the midfield’s depth will be crucial as their season continues and they face elite teams like Maryland.
Experience. Since the Ivy League didn’t play lacrosse in 2021, many of Princeton’s most experienced players left to play elsewhere. Entering the season, only 20 of the Tigers’ 50 players had played in more than five games at the collegiate level and 23 had never even played a single game. While Princeton always has talent and does bring back some solid pieces at key positions, they struggle to field the experienced depth that one would expect from a team of their caliber.
Three things to watch
1. Short stick defensive midfielders. Saturday’s matchup will feature a wide variety of talented short stick midfielders on the defensive end. Maryland trots out graduate All-American Roman Puglise and fifth-year Bubba Fairman, who has found himself playing a lot more defense this season than in past years but has excelled at the job.
“He’s been on [the offensive] side, which makes [the transition to defense] a lot easier because you can anticipate things,” Tillman said.
Princeton’s Stevens and Pederson are forces on the other end of the field, holding down the Tigers’ short stick defensive midfielder unit. Expect players at this position to play a pivotal role in the outcome of Saturday’s game, and also don’t be surprised if other Maryland midfielders like Jack Koras (who got some defensive reps against Syracuse) find themselves running with the defense.
2. Transition play. With the abundance of midfield talent this matchup offers and the ability of many of the defensive midfielders to contribute on the offensive end, expect a fast pace of play to break out at times. Both Maryland and Princeton’s top two short stick defensive midfielders have scored a goal this season, and it would not be surprising if that trend continues. Also, Maryland junior goalie Logan McNaney got more involved in the clearing game against Syracuse and his willingness to leave the goal could open up some quick scoring opportunities for the Terps.
3. Turnovers. One of the best skills of Princeton’s team is their ability to limit turnovers. Per Lacrosse Reference, the Tigers are the sixth-best team in the country at doing just that with a turnover rate of 24.8%, while Maryland lags behind at 16th nationally with a turnover rate of 31.3%.
“There’s been several times where [we’ve played] a great 80 or 60 seconds, [we got] a stop, the ball’s on the ground and then [we turned] it over on a clear or [made] an errant pass and then have to play more defense,” Brett Makar said. “It’s hard to do, especially when you’re playing talented teams.”
In their most recent game against Syracuse, the Terps turned the ball over 15 times. If Maryland wants to win on Saturday, it is going to need to be smart with its passes and focus on clearing the ball without turning it right over once it gets a stop.