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No. 1 Maryland men’s lacrosse vs. Albany preview

The Terps will look to make it six straight wins.

Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics

After a difficult 11-9 win against No. 7 Notre Dame on the road, the top-ranked Maryland men’s lacrosse team returns to Capital One Field at Maryland Stadium on Saturday with an opportunity to build on its 5-0 record.

Much of that success has been due to the stellar defense that the Terps have played as of late, allowing every ranked team they’ve faced to 10 goals or less.

“I think our recent success is because of all the film that we [watch]. Our scout guys do a tremendous job during the week to prepare us for games,” junior goalie Logan McNaney said. “Just [continuing to] be more comfortable with each other on the field is really beneficial for us.”

McNaney earned Big Ten Co-Specialist of the Week honors after his impressive 12-save performance against Notre Dame. He attributed his outstanding play to his laid back demeanor and communication with his teammates.

“I feel like I’ve always prided myself on staying calm, being confident in the cage and working with the defenders,” McNaney said.

Maryland has five wins and only one loss all-time against Albany. That one loss was a classic matchup of No. 1 vs No. 2, when the top-ranked Great Danes mounted a four goal comeback in the fourth quarter to escape College Park with an 11-10 victory. The last matchup was a close 14-13 Maryland win in 2020.

Even though two more home games remain on Maryland’s schedule, the program will honor the team’s seniors on Saturday because of the later start times of the other home games against Rutgers and Ohio State.

“You don’t want your seniors walking off the field with sad faces and disappointed, so we’re gonna bust our butt to make sure that doesn’t happen,” head coach John Tillman said.

Saturday’s game is scheduled to start at noon and will be streamed live on Big Ten Network Plus.

Albany Great Danes (1-3, 0-0 America East)

Scott Marr is in his 22nd season as the head coach at Albany. He has coached all but one of the Great Danes’ Division I seasons since they made the transition from Division II in 2000. During Marr’s tenure, Albany has won nine conference titles and made 10 NCAA Tournaments. In terms of team accolades, 2018 was the most successful season in program history as the Great Danes both rose to No. 1 in the rankings and reached the Final Four for the first time.

The road trips at the start of the 2022 season have not been friendly to Albany, as they have yet to win a game away from home. The Great Danes started the season with road losses to Cornell and Drexel before winning their first home game against Siena. On Tuesday, they lost at UMass 12-9. Picked to finish third in the America East Preseason Coaches’ Poll, Albany will need to pick up the pace if they want to have success in the conference and be competitive in Saturday’s game.

Players to watch

Graydon Hogg, junior attacker/midfielder, No. 45 — Graydon Hogg is arguably Albany’s best offensive weapon. He is currently tied with freshman Amos Whitcomb for the team lead in points, but led last year’s team in goals and finished third in points. He was named to the America East All-Conference Second Team in 2021. Hogg has 45 career goals in 21 career games. He has the ability to produce offense from the midfield and at times command the offense, which makes him a key matchup for Maryland’s defense.

Tanner Hay, senior defenseman, No. 7 — As a senior, Hay is one of the anchors of Albany’s defense. Hay only started one game last season, but has started all four of the Great Danes’ games in 2022 and has performed well. He currently leads the team with eight caused turnovers and is tied for third on the team with 10 ground balls. He also scored a goal in the team’s win against Siena. Against a Maryland team that has many different offensive looks, Hay and the rest of the Albany defense are going to need to have their best performance of the season to stay in the game.

Amos Whitcomb, freshman attacker, No. 2 — So far this season, Whitcomb has registered two goals in every game except one. He added three assists against Siena. Despite only being a freshman, Whitcomb has established himself as a key piece in the Great Danes’ offense. Whitcomb hails from Salamanca, New York, which is located within the Allegany Reservation, belonging to the Seneca Nation. Lacrosse fans watching a dynamic Albany attackman wearing No. 2 and wearing a long braid (a traditional Native American hairstyle) will get flashbacks to Miles Thompson’s play in the mid-2010s.

Strength

Man down defense. Albany has done a great job this season limiting their opponents when they take a penalty. They score slightly less than 50% of the time on the man up, but allowing the third-lowest percentage of goals on the man down. Opponents are only 2-for-11 when a man up against the Great Danes, not scoring over 80% of the time. Albany even scored on the man down on Tuesday against UMass. While no team wants to be forced into a situation where their opponent has a man-advantage, Albany has been incredibly successful at limiting the damage.

Weakness

Turnovers. The Great Danes have struggled mightily maintaining possession this season. They rank 63rd nationally in turnovers per game and 61st in turnover rate, according to Lacrosse Reference. Of their 79 turnovers in four games, only 28 have been caused by the opponent. A lot of these problems stem from their difficulties clearing the ball after a defensive stop, with the nation’s 50th best clearing percentage. An active and physical Maryland defense will look to get as many takeaways as possible on Saturday.

Three things to watch

  1. Midfield production. The Terps got a huge boost last week from their second unit of midfielders. Junior Jack Brennan and sophomore Jack Koras both scored goals (Brennan had two) and provided quality play on the defensive end as well. Despite the excellent play of Maryland’s second unit of midfielders, they are going to need the rest of their midfield unit to pick up their offensive play as the season goes on. After scoring eleven points in the team’s first two games, graduate midfielder Keegan Khan had one assist against Syracuse and has been held scoreless in the last two games.

“I think Keegan is going to play really well this week. I just have a feeling… it’s not just that he shaved his mustache,” Tillman said.

2. Inclement conditions. After playing on a sunny spring day in South Bend last weekend, Maryland can expect to face some adverse weather conditions in this week’s game. Current forecasts call for cold rain that transitions to snow flurries and a low temperature of approximately 20 degrees. If the Terps don’t want to slip up Saturday, they are going to need to be prepared to handle a wet field and frigid temperatures.

“We try to practice as much as we can in bad weather so that if we do [play in it], it’s just business as usual,” Tillman said.

3. Staying focused. While Albany provides an obstacle this Saturday, many fans of both Maryland and the rest of the college lacrosse world are already looking ahead to next week’s national championship rematch against No. 2 Virginia. That game is certainly one of if not the season’s most anticipated game, but it’s important that the Terps keep their eyes set on the Great Danes in a potential trap game this week, especially after a tough road back to College Park last weekend.

“[Notre Dame was a] physical game, definitely one where I think our guys were exhausted,” Tillman said. “We didn’t get back to campus until about [3 a.m.] Our plane got delayed and I’m thankful we got out that night, but we were supposed to leave at 8:40 and we left at 11:10.”

That delay led to the coaching staff making the decision to give the team an extra day off to recover, but with the team working through midterm exams and an intense week of practice, they can’t afford to take a game off to recover if they wish to remain undefeated.

“We need to be prepared and we’ve got to prepare like we do every single other game. If not, you’re gonna pay for that one way or another,” Tillman said.