The game Terps fans have had circled on their calendar since the start of the season is finally here.
Almost a year in the making, Maryland takes on North Carolina in Chapel Hill for a rematch of the 2016 NCAA National Championship game. The last time these teams saw each other, the Terps watched the Tar Heels storm Lincoln Financial Field after an overtime goal by Chris Cloutier brought North Carolina its first national title since 1992.
Neither team is playing its best lacrosse at the moment, with Maryland on a two-game losing streak and North Carolina having dropped two of its last three. Still, this is arguably the most-anticipated collegiate lacrosse game of the year.
This is a pivotal game for John Tillman’s squad, as a win against the No. 14 team in the country would keep them from slipping even further down the rankings. A loss would make it three straight heading into conference play, which includes three Big Ten teams ranked in the top five.
When and where: Saturday, March 25, 11:30 a.m. at Navy Field in Chapel Hill, N.C.
Where to watch: ESPNU
North Carolina Tar Heels (5-3)
Head coach Joe Breschi: The ninth-year head coach won his first national championship least year, ending a 26-year championship drought for the blue-blood program. It was the first time an unseeded team in the NCAA Tournament won the national title, as Breschi coached his team to four of the most important wins in program history after an 8-5 regular season.
Players to Know
Chris Cloutier, junior, attack, No. 45. Not only is he the Tar Heels’ leading scorer with 17 goals on the season, he’s the reason Maryland’s championship drought is still at 46 years.
He racked up five goals on seven attempts including the game winner, so he’s not exactly the defense’s favorite player at the moment.
Stephen ‘Bones’ Kelly, senior, faceoff, No. 24. The Maryland native had a particularly bad outing last year, as then-freshman Austin Henningsen dominated with a 15-for-23 performance at the X. Kelly is still one of the country’s best faceoffs, and will be an interesting matchup against a unit that’s been hot-and-cold as of recent.
Scoring defense. The Tar Heels are lockdown defensively, and it lets their offense flourish. With the 10th-best scoring defense in the country, only No. 17 Johns Hopkins and No. 5 Hofstra have been able to reach double-digit scoring against them. When holding teams to single-digit goals, they’re 4-1.
Secondary scoring. Cloutier and Luke Goldstock are the only UNC players with double-digit goal totals, but there is an abundance of secondary scorers. So far, 14 players have gotten on the board for the Tar Heels, so Maryland’s Dan Morris is going to be seeing a lot of looks in the cage.
Man-down defense. With 10 goals given up in man-down situations, this is an avenue the Terps might want to pursue. North Carolina averages more than three penalties per game, so it could be some easy pickings if Maryland is able to incite them.