After handling Bryant in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, top-seeded Maryland men’s lacrosse takes on No. 8 Albany for a spot in the 2017 Final Four in Foxborough.
The Great Danes (15-2) are coming off a tournament-opening victory over defending national champion North Carolina. Despite allowing a 9-1 scoring run to the Tar Heels in the second half, the offense built a dominant 14-3 lead at halftime that proved too great to erase.
Maryland and Albany faced each other earlier this season in a midweek showdown, with the Terps hanging on for a narrow 12-11 victory. A rematch between these two, with a Final Four spot at stake, is every college lacrosse fan’s dream.
Despite just two losses and the highest-scoring attack in the country, the selection committee underestimated the Great Danes and slotted them as the No. 8 seed.
A championship-caliber game in just the second round of the tournament will give Maryland a serious test earlier than expected.
When and where: Sunday, May 21, 2:30 p.m. ET, Delaware Stadium at the University of Delaware
How to watch: ESPN2 and WatchESPN
No. 8 Albany Great Danes (15-2, 6-0)
Last meeting: In an April matchup that had originally been postponed, it was evident the two teams battling in Casey Stadium were among the best in the country. The Terps and Great Danes went goal for goal all game, with neither team able to get ahead of the other. Junior Justin Reh led the way with four goals, and junior Connor Fields tallied a hat trick along with five assists. Down 12-11, the Great Danes had possession in the closing seconds with a chance to force overtime. Reh took a shot but was blocked with time expiring.
Albany hasn’t lost since.
Players to know
Connor Fields, junior, attack, No. 5: On top of leading the team with 55 goals, Fields is a player that gets everyone involved. With 61 assists on the season, he leads the country with 3.59 per game, a dangerous mark considering how many elite-level scorers the Great Danes have in their arsenal.
Justin Reh, junior, attack, No. 11: In the America East tournament, Reh totaled nine goals on an efficient 18 shots. He’s second on the team with 39 goals this season and hitting his stride at just the right moment.
Bennett Drake, senior, midfield, No. 88: The senior poured in a team-high five goals against the Tar Heels last weekend. Drake has been an offensive force at the midfield all season for the Great Danes, third on the team with 35 goals, and is solid option next to Albany’s starting attack.
Storylines to watch
Can Tillman’s defense neutralize Albany’s offense? The Great Danes have the best offense in the country, and that’s not a hyperbole. Scoring just under 16 goals per game, Albany leads the country in scoring offense, scoring margin, assists and points per game. Maryland’s defense has neutralized elite offenses all season, and the Terps prevailed against Albany’s offense earlier this season. But the stakes of this rematch are higher, and the defense can’t afford to let Albany do what it does best.
Maryland’s faceoffs improved against Bryant, but what about against TD Ierlan? Maryland’s faceoff unit settled down for a quality outing against the Bulldogs, going 13-for-25 on the day behind Austin Henningsen, who won 11. But freshman TD Ierlan is a different animal, second in the country with a .725 win percentage. If Maryland can put up a fight against Ierlan, who went 23-for-30 against the Terps in the first meeting, it could give the offense some valuable extra possessions.
Who will shine on offense? What makes Maryland fun to watch is that anybody could go off on any given day. There’s Tim Rotanz, who lit up the cage for five against Bryant and has been a tremendous change of pace option at the midfield. Connor Kelly had a quiet game against the Bulldogs but carried the Terps offense through the Big Ten Tournament with nine goals. And the starting attack features all-time points leader Matt Rambo along with Colin Heacock and Dylan Maltz, who are always primed for big games as well.