On just one day of rest, Maryland men’s lacrosse will take on Ohio State for the Big Ten championship game this Saturday.
The Terps put on a defensive showcase in the semis against Penn State, beating the Nittany Lions 8-6 behind Connor Kelly’s four second-half goals. In a much different affair, the Buckeyes scored 13 to edge Johns Hopkins by two and advance to the title game.
While both teams have secured spots in the NCAA Tournament, Maryland’s playing for a chance to enter the field as the No. 1 overall seed for the second straight year. The Terps also have a chance for revenge against one of only three teams to defeat them this season.
When and where: Saturday, May 6 at 7:30 p.m. ET, Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium
How to watch: Big Ten Network
Ohio State Buckeyes (13-3, 4-2)
Last meeting: Last time around in Columbus, the Terps came up just short. After a nail-biting triple-overtime win over Rutgers the week before, Maryland found itself having to get it done in extra time against Ohio State for a second consecutive overtime game. Jake Withers won the overtime faceoff, and Maryland never even got a chance as Ohio State’s Johnny Pearson netted the game-winner just moments later.
The 11-10 win created a three-way tie atop the Big Ten standings between Johns Hopkins, Maryland and Ohio State, with the Buckeyes only needing to beat Rutgers to secure the No. 1 seed. But the Scarlet Knights ended the season with a signature win to add to their resume by beating the Buckeyes, meaning the Terps’ win over Hopkins gave them the Big Ten regular season title.
Players to Know
No. 20 Eric Fannell, senior, attack. Fannel exploded for a game-high five goals against the Terps, but put up just one against Johns Hopkins on Thursday. In the midst of his final postseason, look for him to have a bounce-back performance.
No. 14 Tre Leclaire, freshman, attack/midfield. Named the Big Ten Freshman of the Year, Leclaire was unstoppable against Johns Hopkins on Thursday. Tallying six goals with three ground balls, he accounted for nearly half of the Buckeyes’ production in the biggest moment of his young career. With 38 goals on the season, the Terps can’t afford to have him go off.
No. 18 Jake Withers, senior, midfield. Withers was crowned the Big Ten Specialist of the Year, and showed just why against the Blue Jays. Winning 20-of-31 draws at the X, his dominance at faceoff has given the Buckeyes an edge all season long. A dominant faceoff game enables the Buckeyes to maintain possession and control the pace of the game as they see fit.
Storylines to watch:
Can the faceoff unit enter the NCAA Tournament on a high note? Maryland’s faceoff unit went 9-for-18 against Penn State, marking the first time since April 8th that it didn’t fall below a .500-winning percentage. Withers dominated the ‘Hawg Pen’ in their last meeting, going 18-for-25 including the game winning faceoff. Despite these troubles, Maryland was still able to push the game to overtime. If the committee of Austin Henningsen, Will Bonaparte and Jon Garino can just get it around .500 for the day, the offense could run a lot smoother.
Will Dan Morris keep up this level of play? Against Penn State, Morris let in just one goal compared to seven saves in the first half alone. Finishing with 16 saves against the scorching Nittany Lions offense, it’s safe to say it was his best game in the cage this season. With the way the defense has been stifling shots, Morris is in perfect position to continue his superb goalkeeping into the NCAA Tournament.
The emergence of Connor Kelly at exactly the right time. It’s tough for fans to think about, but senior and all-time points leader Matt Rambo will not be at Maryland for much longer. Likewise, Colin Heacock, Dylan Maltz and Tim Rotanz will all be graduating come season’s end. That’s 98 goals and 58 assists that just won’t be coming back next year. That being said, this is the perfect time for Connor Kelly to emerge as next year’s offensive leader. Second on the team with 31 goals, the junior took command against Penn State when the Nittany Lions were knocking on the doorstep. He’ll inherit this offense next year, and there’s no better time to start than now.