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NCAA Tournament first round preview: Maryland men’s lacrosse vs. Army

The Terps host the Black Knights to start their run at another national championship.

Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics

For the 20th consecutive season, Maryland men’s lacrosse will compete in the NCAA Tournament.

The Terps hold the No. 4 overall seed and will host Army in the first round on Saturday.

Maryland enters the tournament with a 10-5 record, but didn’t rake in any conference trophies. The Terps lost the regular-season finale — in which a win would have secured a share of the Big Ten regular-season title — to Johns Hopkins, 12-11, and then lost in the Big Ten Tournament championship game to Michigan, 14-5.

“Second game in three days and, you know, we just didn’t execute as well as we would’ve liked, and didn’t do a lot of things well,” head coach John Tillman said of the loss to Michigan. “You watch film on a team, and you’ll look at what they did last week, and if you don’t clean up some of that stuff, people will take advantage of it.”

After falling short in conference play, Maryland will have one more opportunity to take home some hardware.

The Terps’ final home game of the year will begin at 7:30 p.m. and air on ESPNU.

Army Black Knights (12-3, 7-1 Patriot League)

2022 record: 12-4, 6-2 Patriot League

Head coach Joe Alberici is in his 17th season at the helm of Army’s men’s lacrosse team. Alberic became the 10th head coach in program history in 2006 after nine years as an assistant at Duke. He took over for Hall of Fame head coach Jack Emmer, who retired as college lacrosse’s all-time winningest coach. Alberici has since led the Black Knights to three NCAA Tournament appearances (2010, 2019, 2023) and three Patriot League championships.

Army lost its season opener against UMass, 10-8, but won the next nine games, including a 14-13 win over then-No. 8 Rutgers. The Black Knights lost two of their final three regular season games, but kept their NCAA Tournament hopes alive in the conference tournament. Army defeated Lehigh, 19-13, in the semifinal and Loyola (Md.), 10-8, in the championship game, claiming an automatic bid to the national tournament.

Players to watch

AJ Pilate, sophomore defenseman, No. 20 – Pilate has been a cornerstone of the Black Knights defense since joining the team in 2022, starting in 27 of his 28 appearances. This season, he picked up the Patriot League Defensive Player of the Year award, scooping up 32 ground balls and causing 17 turnovers. Pilate will most likely be glued to freshman attackman Braden Erksa, setting up a heavyweight battle in Maryland’s attacking zone.

Knox Dent, senior goalie, No. 2 – Dent did not see much playing time prior to the 2023 season, but has quickly turned into one of the nation’s best goalies. He ranks second in the country in goals allowed per game (9.02) and 10th in save percentage (0.542). Dent’s play garnered the Patriot League Goalkeeper of the Year award and an all-conference first-team selection.

Reese Burek, junior attackman, No. 24 – Burek is Army’s offensive bell cow, leading the team in points by 14. He was selected to the All-Patriot League first team, recording 33 goals, 23 assists and 32 ground balls this season. Burek will need to be more efficient, though, as he averages a 0.289 shooting percentage.


Defense. Headlined by Pilate and Dent, Army has one of the best defenses in the country. The Black Knights rank second in goals allowed per game (8.67), 12th in man-down defense percentage (0.705) and 32nd in caused turnovers per game (8.13). With their offense facing inconsistencies, the Terps could be in store for another single-digit affair.


Experience. Only four starters from Army’s 2022 team returned this year — none of which have ever competed in the NCAA Tournament — and three of its current starters are freshmen. While Maryland also relies on underclassmen, its national tournament experience is unmatched.

Three things to watch

1. Will Maryland’s upperclassmen step up? The Terps’ upperclassmen underperformed during their loss to Michigan in the Big Ten championship game. Senior faceoff specialist Luke Wierman won just 10 of 20 faceoffs, 11.4 percentage points below his season average. Junior attackman Daniel Kelly, who leads the Terps in scoring, missed both of his shot attempts and senior attackman Daniel Maltz tallied an assist, but missed all three of his shot attempts. Maryland was forced to rely on Erksa and sophomore attackman Eric Spanos, who combined for all five goals last Saturday. If the Terps want to keep their season alive, their veterans need to show up.

2. Shooting percentage. Maryland had its worst shooting performance of the season against Michigan, totaling a 12.5% shooting percentage. Meanwhile, Army allows a 24.9% opponent shooting percentage, on average, and held Loyola to 18.6% in the Patriot League championship game. The Terps will need to be more efficient against the Black Knights and it starts with Kelly, Maltz, junior midfielder Jack Koras and senior midfielder Kyle Long, who were a combined 0-for-13 against Michigan.

3. Can Maryland bounce back? Maryland suffered its worst loss under Tillman in the Big Ten championship game, scoring just two goals in the final three quarters en route to a nine-goal loss.

“The Jekyll and Hyde of Maryland lacrosse 2023 still exists,” Tillman said. “We hope it’s gone, but, you know, we got to realize that there are some things that we just need to get better at.”