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Maryland men’s lacrosse vs. Penn State preview: Terps look to hand Nittany Lions first loss of season

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Penn State is ranked No. 1, but plenty of top teams have fallen this year.

NCAA Lacrosse: National Championship-North Carolina vs Maryland Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Maryland men’s lacrosse is tasked with its biggest challenge of the season Saturday: taking down undefeated and No. 1-ranked Penn State.

The Terps saw the Nittany Lions twice last year, earning two victories accomplished in drastically different ways. With Penn State a bubble team for the 2016 NCAA Tournament entering the Big Ten Tournament, a win over then-third ranked Maryland could’ve put them over the top. But The Terps got out in front early, ending Tambroni’s hopes for the postseason.

The regular season matchup was quite different, as Bryan Cole netted a dagger in overtime to ruin Penn State’s upset bid.

The difference between Penn State this year and last is like night and day. With 22 first-place votes in the Inside Lacrosse rankings and one of the highest-scoring offenses in the country, this is not your grandfather’s Penn State men’s lacrosse team.

Game Info:

When and where: Saturday, April 8, 1 p.m. ET, Maryland Stadium

How to watch: Big Ten Network (but you should go)

No. 1 Penn State Nittany Lions (10-0, 1,0)

Head coach Jeff Tambroni. The seventh -year head coach has gradually changed lacrosse culture in Happy Valley. With progressively better recruiting classes and a move from the Colonial Athletic Association to the Big Ten, Tambroni has put in the ground work for years-long success. His 16 years as a head coach are culminating into something tangible and special on the field this year for the Nittany Lions.

Players to watch

No. 3 Mac O’Keefe, freshman, attack. It’s safe to say O’Keefe is the best young attack in Division I lacrosse. The freshman has racked up a whopping 35 goals, tied for the most in the country. It’s not really a matter of whether or not he’ll score; it’s a question of how many he’ll put up.

No. 40 Gerard Arceri, freshman, faceoff. Another freshman making a huge impact immediately, Arceri is a dominant presence at the faceoff. He’s bullying opposing faceoffs with a .680 percentage, while adding four goals and a Big Ten-leading 88 ground balls.

Strengths

Scoring offense. The Nittany Lions boast the fifth highest scoring offense in the country, which is also good for best in the Big Ten. With 14.7 goals per game, the offense outscores opponents by an average of more than four goals.

The faceoff unit as a whole. While Arceri is the main man at the draw, there are a number of players in Tambroni’s arsenal that make this unit one of the best in the nation with a .670 winning percentage. Before Arceri’s arrival, Bill Lombardi was the bona fide starter, finishing 104-219 from the X. Now as a senior, he’s taken a secondary role with the unit, but is having his best season yet with an efficient .690 percentage.

Weaknesses

None, really. They’re the No. 1 team in the country for a reason. They’ve had some close games against Fairfield and Furman, but ultimately come into Maryland Stadium as the team with a target on its back.