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NCAA Men’s Lacrosse Tournament 2017 preview: Maryland plays Ohio State for national championship

The Terps and Buckeyes meet one more time, with everything at stake.

NCAA Lacrosse: Men's Championship Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — In the final college lacrosse game of the 2017 season, Maryland men’s lacrosse will play conference rival Ohio State for the national championship.

In a thrilling down-to-the-wire affair, the Terps exorcised their demons over Denver in a rematch of the 2015 championship game, edging the Pioneers 9-8. The Buckeyes (16-4) advanced to Monday’s title game with a come-from-behind one goal victory over Towson in Saturday’s first semifinal.

This will be the third consecutive championship game for the Terps’ senior class, and they can end their careers with an exclamation point.

“It's the last game me and Colin [Heacock] and the rest of the seniors will be playing, so there is nothing really to hold back for us anymore,” defender Tim Muller said after beating Denver. “I don't think it's any different than the previous years. Our whole team bought in this year, and we're going to rely on everyone.”

Maryland (15-3) is looking to end the program’s 42-year championship drought, while Ohio State has the chance to win its first national championship in its first appearance in the final game.

“That was one of the conversations we had this year,” Buckeyes head coach Nick Myers said Sunday. “Look at [OSU] wrestling. They had never done it before. Look at [OSU] volleyball, they hadn't done it before. Why can't that be us and what are they doing?”

If this year’s semifinal round is any indication of how the championship game will go, college lacrosse and Maryland fans will certainly get their money’s worth.

Game Info:

When and where: Monday, May 29th at 1 p.m., Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts

How to watch: ESPN2, Westwood One radio

Storylines to follow

Familiarity is an advantage, but both teams get it

The two Big Ten heavyweights will face each other for the third time this season, with the first two contests being arguably Maryland’s most exciting games of the year. The Buckeyes beat the Terps in overtime during the regular season for the team’s only loss in conference play, but Maryland retaliated in Columbus to win the Big Ten tournament title and the conference’s automatic bid.

“We both know each other's tendencies,” Ohio State’s Tre LeClaire said. “We expect the best from them, and they're expecting the best from us.”

The Terps don’t have to game prep for a completely new team, but it’s a double edged sword that’s advantageous for both teams. Even so, by the time two teams plays their third matchup, it’s essentially like playing a different team anyway.

“I think bottom line is they're very familiar with us. We're familiar with them,” Myers said. “You have a really good sense of some of their keys. At the same time, you have to make sure you focus on yourselves as well.”

The game’s quick turnaround isn’t new either, as the Big Ten Tournament title game was also played on just one day’s rest.

Maryland’s gone through a gauntlet at the faceoff this postseason

Maryland muscled past Albany’s TD Ierlan and contained college lacrosse’s best in Trevor Baptiste. For the title, the Terps will go against Ohio State’s equally-deadly Jake Withers, who was the highest pure faceoff specialist taken in Sunday’s 2017 Major League Lacrosse Draft with the No. 9 overall pick.

“It seems like we've come down murderer's row,” Tillman said in Sunday’s press conference. “Our group collectively has done a good job of preparing all year. I don't think our numbers are awesome, but they've done enough to help us win.”

Maryland’s faceoff unit has gone just 17-for-48 against Withers, but went 10-for-21 against Denver in the semifinals. If Maryland can utilize the extent of its committee against the Buckeyes’ workhorse, the Terps might be able to wear Withers down.

“The thing about Maryland, they've got three pretty capable guys there,” Withers said. “I've just got to keep my composure as the game goes on, no matter who they throw at me.”

Ohio State embraces the underdog role

At the beginning of the season, most analysts wouldn’t have predicted Ohio State would be playing in the national championship game.

“We're coming into this with an underdog mentality. We get that, we embrace that,” Myers said. “We've embraced that all year from the first poll that [Ohio State] came out at 22.”

As the Buckeyes’ season progressed, they proved they belonged in the nation’s upper echelon with wins over Denver and Maryland, and they picked up NCAA Tournament wins over Loyola, Duke and Towson. But Myers knows that his team isn’t expected by most to upset Maryland, a team he views as “the best team in the country.”

Which players have thrived in this matchup

Maryland Terrapins

No. 40 Connor Kelly, junior, midfield: Six goals (team high) on 15 shots, one assist

No. 1 Matt Rambo, senior, attack: Four goals, four assists, three ground balls

Ohio State Buckeyes

No. 20 Eric Fannell, senior, attack: Seven goals (team high) on 17 shots, three ground balls

No. 3 Tom Carey, senior, goalie: 21 saves, 20 goals allowed

Other notes

  • The championship game will field 11 players selected in the 2017 Major League Lacrosse draft. Rambo was picked third overall by the Charlotte Hounds, while Tim Muller (10th), Colin Heacock (11th), Isaiah Davis-Allen (16th) and Nick Manis (66th) also heard their names called. Jake Withers, Tom Carey, Eric Fannell, Johnny Pearson, Tyler Pfister, JT Blubaugh of Ohio State were also selected.
  • The Terps have worn the white throwback uniforms the last six games, and haven’t lost in them. According to an equipment manager for the team, the staff had already begun washing them after the win over Denver, so it looks like Maryland will close out the season in the same threads.
  • Rambo became the Terps’ most prolific goal scorer in program history against Denver, notching his 154th career goal. He can extend that record in his final game.
  • This will be Maryland’s fifth title game appearance in seven years. The Terps are 0-for-9 since 1975 in title game appearances, but can end that dry spell Monday.
  • With the women’s lacrosse team beating Boston College on Sunday, Maryland can sweep both national championships this weekend and officially be the lacrosse capital of the world.