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NCAA Tournament second round preview: No. 2-seed Maryland women’s lacrosse vs. Duke

The Terps fell to the Blue Devils in last year’s second round, 13-12.

Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics.

Duke or Johns Hopkins?

That was the question the No. 2-seed Maryland women’s lacrosse team had to prepare for ahead of its second round NCAA Tournament matchup. On Friday, Duke prevailed in its first-round matchup, setting up a rematch of last year’s NCAA Tournament showdown with the Terps.

A late comeback fueled by junior attacker Libby May and her sister Catie May came up just short as the Terps fell to the Blue Devils, 13-12. That matchup took place in Durham, but this time around the two will play in Maryland’s backyard at the Field Hockey and Lacrosse Complex.

“We haven’t had this specific experience yet,” junior attacker Hannah Leubecker said. “It’s so nice not having to travel, being able to finish school ... and not worry about doing all that stuff on the road. We love playing here, we love the fans ... it’s definitely really exciting.”

The rematch is set, and Maryland has revenge on its mind as it looks to advance to the quarterfinals and potentially meet up against either No. 7-seed Florida or Jacksonville.

“We all know what it felt like last year and then just gaining that experience has just helped us with confidence going into this year and into [the NCAA Tournament],” junior goalkeeper Emily Sterling said.

Maryland’s second round game is set for Sunday at 2:30 p.m. and can be streamed on ESPN Plus.

Duke Blue Devils (16-3, 6-2 ACC)

Head coach Kerstin Kimel is the only coach in Duke’s history and she has propelled the program to one of the perennial powerhouses of the sport. As the No. 7-seed in last year’s tournament, Kimel brought her team to the quarterfinal round before losing to Northwestern. This year, the Blue Devils have been formidable once again. Aside from a two-game skid late in the season that knocked the Blue Devils out of the top-eight seed lines, they ran rampant through their regular season schedule, losing only to Syracuse on March 6 before dropping its final game to North Carolina before the postseason.

Players to know

Senior attacker Maddie Jenner, No. 14 — Jenner has been a consistent name on the Tewaaraton watch list the past two seasons and her play has certainly lived up to her status on the national stage. She scored 30 goals this season, but her main area of contribution is on the draw. After compiling 187 draws last season, Jenner gathered a whopping 229 this year, the best in the nation on a per game basis. This is considerable given Maryland’s inconsistency on the draw this season. While they’ve been better since postseason play has begun, a player like Jenner can single handedly dismantle the Terps.

Graduate midfielder Catriona Barry, No. 19 — The points leader for Duke has been a jack of all trades this season. Her 90 points — 54 goals and 36 assists — accompanied 18 ground balls, 12 caused turnovers and 20 draw controls. Her scoring has slowed down a bit down the stretch, but she is a constant threat on a Duke offense that ranks 11th in the country.

Sophomore attacker Katie DeSimone, No. 4 — DeSimone was a thorn in Maryland’s side in last year’s meeting, leading the charge for the Blue Devils with four goals. This season, she has continued to be a menace on the attack, leading Duke with 59 goals. Her development has been a crucial piece to Duke’s success these past two seasons and she will look to be a main contributor once again in the rematch.

Strength

Initiating offense. Draw controls and offensive production go hand in hand, and the Blue Devils are one of the best in the country in capitalizing on both facets of the game. A .630 draw control percentage coupled with its 11th ranked scoring offense asserts the Blue Devils on the offensive end at a rapid pace. Maryland will have to step up on defense or the draw to prevent the contest from becoming a shoot-out.

Weakness

Clears. As good as Duke is at generating offense from the draw circle, it struggles from turning defense into offense. Ranking last in the ACC in clear percentage (.852), the Blue Devils cough up the ball in transition at times. The Terps can capitalize on this weakness by applying pressure on the attack and and in the midfield.

Three things to watch

1. A tough draw. For all intents and purposes, the Blue Devils have been a top-eight team in the country all year. They’ve consistently been entrenched in the top-10 of Inside Lacrosse’s national polls this season. The main reason for their low seeding is the first round exit in the ACC Tournament to Notre Dame. The Terps have to deal with the repercussions of the unfortunate seeding, but as they’ve done all season, they are not going to back down to a tough opponent.

2. How will the Terps adjust to having a bye? It’s another first for the young Terps as they had short notice to prepare for their opponent. Not knowing its opponent just two days prior to its second round game creates some problems for Maryland. But the attitude around the team, like it has been all season, has not been focused on the opponent, but rather themselves.

“It kind of goes with everything we talk about here at Maryland is now we’ve got this week to work on things we need to do better,” head coach Cathy Reese said.

Leubecker added, “The focus is just playing us, it really doesn’t matter who we play. We’ll be ready for anything because we just have to play our game.”

3. How fast will Maryland play? Either by design or game situation, the Terps will look to speed up their offensive approach in this one. Duke gets the ball moving and if they are able to produce, Maryland will have to play with a certain ferocity on offense through all four quarters. Regardless of Duke’s success, however, the Terps have been instrumental all week on pushing the pace and leaving everything on the line.

“We’ve definitely gotten better at our possession time and executing off of that, but that’s an area I just want to keep growing and just being smarter with the ball,” Reese said.