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Maryland men’s lacrosse vs. Albany preview: Terps take on the nation’s top team

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You won’t want to miss this showdown in College Park.

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

Maryland men’s lacrosse successfully beat then-ranked No. 8 Notre Dame last weekend at home for the first time in five tries, the biggest test the team faced so far this season. But this Saturday, the Terps will face an even tougher task when they host Albany—the top-ranked team in the country.

College Park will play host to a 1 vs. 2 matchup for the first time since 1987, when Maryland thrashed No. 1 North Carolina, 16-6. Maryland head coach John Tillman has led his team to a perfect 4-0 record against No. 1 teams in his tenure.

Maryland, at least for now, is sticking with freshman faceoff specialist Justin Shockey. A highly-touted recruit, Shockey has taken the majority of faceoffs over the last two games. He went 15-of-22 at the X against the Fighting Irish, while also collecting 11 ground balls.

Senior midfielder Connor Kelly is coming off the first 10-point game recorded by a Terp in the last 39 years. He recorded his third hat trick of the season while adding a career-high seven assists. He only had 11 assists all of last season. It’s clear he’s becoming an elite dual-threat scorer and facilitator.

Maryland and Albany are far from strangers, playing each other in both the regular and postseason last year. The No. 3 Terps traveled to New York to take on the No. 6 Great Danes last April, winning a 12-11 thriller. Current senior Tim Rotanz scored three goals in the victory. The two sides met up again in the NCAA Quarterfinals, but the score wasn’t nearly the same. Behind five goals from Kelly, Maryland cruised to an 18-9 win to earn a trip to Foxborough.

The opening faceoff is set for 12 p.m. ET and will be televised on the Big Ten Network.

No. 1 Albany Great Danes (4-0)

Head coach Scott Marr is in his 18th season leading the Great Danes. During his tenure, Albany has earned nine trips to the NCAA Tournament, but has only won four games. He’s a five-time America East Coach of the Year, leading the Great Danes to eight conference titles.

Players to know

Senior attacker Connor Fields, No. 5. Arguably the best player in the country, Fields is coming off a 117-point season. He had at least three points in every game last season, earning First Team All-American honors. He has 12 goals and 18 assists in four games this spring.

Sophomore faceoff specialist TD Irelan, No. 3. Only one player in the country—Denver’s Trevor Baptiste—won faceoffs at a higher clip last season than Irelan. He won 70.8 percent, collecting 11.2 ground balls per game. He has won an incredible 78 of 90 faceoffs in four games this season, already grabbing 15 ground balls.

Freshman attacker Tehoka Nanticoke, No. 1. According to Inside Lacrosse, Nanticoke was the No. 1 recruit in the 2017 class, leading IMG Academy to a 19-1 record during his senior year. He is one of two Great Danes with more than 10 points this season, tallying 14 goals and seven assists through four games.

Strength

It’s hard to pick just one... Albany is the highest-scoring team in the country and have conceded the sixth-fewest goals per game this season. The Great Danes have a faceoff specialist that won nearly 80 percent of his draws last season and has lost just 12 of 90 this season. Their redshirt senior goalkeeper, JD Colarusso, is saving 65.4 percent of shots he faces, the second-highest percentage in the country. This might be the best team the Terps face this year.

Weakness

Extra man opportunities. Despite all the glaringly obvious strengths the Great Danes boast, they have struggled so far this season playing with an extra man. Albany has converted on six of its 20 man-up opportunities this season, which is just 30 percent. The Terps, however, have scored on 69 percent of their chances with an additional player this season, which ranks third in the country. Maryland’s defense is holding its opponents to just 42 percent on man-up chances through five games.

Three things to watch

  1. You should probably clear your schedule. Now. Do it now. It’s not only a clash between the two top-ranked teams in the country, but it’s a redemption chance for the Great Danes. While the Terps will face a talented, ranked opponent every week from here on out, on paper, this is the toughest opponent Maryland will face in the regular season. The Connor Kelly vs. Connor Fields matchup will also be incredibly entertaining to watch. The winner of this game will also either retain or regain the top spot in the rankings.
  2. Can Maryland hold its own at the X? In two meetings last season, TD Irelan won just over half of his faceoffs against the Terps. He won 16 of 27 in the one-goal game in the first meeting, but was held to 14 of 30 in the NCAA Quarterfinals. He’s the nation’s second-best faceoff specialist in the country, so if Justin Shockey, Austin Henningsen and the midfielders can gain possession, it’ll help the Terps’ chances immensely. Fields and the offense can’t score if the Great Danes don’t have possession.
  3. Will the Terps be able to limit Connor Fields enough? Fields scored three goals in each of the two meetings last season as the country’s best scorer. In Maryland’s win over Notre Dame last weekend, the Terps were able to hold the best two Fighting Irish attackers to zero combined goals. Fields is an entirely different animal, but Maryland has been able to limit the best player on the opposing team so far this season.