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Maryland men’s lacrosse vs. Cornell NCAA Quarterfinals preview

The Terps and Big Red meet up in the postseason for the third consecutive meeting.

Maryland lacrosse Connor Kelly vs. Albany Lila Bromberg / Testudo Times

The only thing in between Maryland men’s lacrosse and a fifth straight appearance in the Final Four is arguably the hottest team in the country. The top-seeded Terps will play Cornell — who has won 10 of its last 11 games — in the NCAA Quarterfinals Sunday in Annapolis.

Maryland lost two of its last four games heading into the NCAA tournament before finding itself down three goals at halftime last weekend against Robert Morris. The Terps scored just three goals in the first half, but 11 in the final 30 minutes to pull away from the Colonials.

The first half was maybe the worst 30 minutes Maryland played all season, and the Terps are still searching for a complete performance now that they’re in the most important time of the year.

While Maryland has shown weaknesses late in the season, Cornell has been trending upward and playing with a lot of confidence behind Jeff Teat, one of the most prolific point-getters in the nation. The Big Red defeated Yale in the Ivy League tournament to earn an automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament, where it beat No. 8-seed Syracuse on the road last weekend in the first round, 10-9.

The last two times Maryland has played Cornell was in the NCAA Tournament. In 2014, No. 7-seed Maryland narrowly beat the Big Red, 8-7, in College Park in the first round, a game head coach John Tillman said his team really struggled with. The year prior, Cornell crushed No. 6-seed Maryland, 16-8, in the first round of the tournament.

The game is scheduled for noon ET at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium and will be televised on ESPNU.

Cornell Big Red (13-4, 4-2 Ivy League)

Interim head coach Peter Milliman was named to the position after Cornell’s previous head coach resigned after last season. The Big Red never officially hired a full-time head coach, so Milliman has spent this entire season technically still as the interim.

Players to know

Sophomore attackman Jeff Teat, No. 51. Teat recorded 72 points last year, breaking a program freshman record. He’s followed that up with a 37-goal, 60-assist season with time still left. Only Duke’s Justin Guterding has more points than him this season.

Junior attackman Clarke Petterson, No 45. There’s a reason Cornell has the third-highest scoring offense in the country behind Albany and Yale. Petterson has nine hat tricks this season, including last weekend in a five-goal effort against Syracuse.

Senior goalkeeper Christian Knight, No. 40. He saves 57 percent of the shots he faces, the seventh-highest rate in the country. He’s made 19 saves in a game on three different occasions this season. Knight is also a Baltimore native, so this is essentially a homecoming for the senior.

Strength

Offense. According to Analytics Lacrosse, Maryland and Cornell have the two best offenses in the country. The Big Red has three 30-plus goal scorers, including the second-highest point-getter in the nation. Cornell’s 13.9 goals per game is the third-best in the country, but it scores on 40 percent of their shots, which is the highest rate in Division I.

Weakness

Faceoffs. One of Maryland’s biggest weaknesses this season has been at the faceoff dot. Well, Cornell is even weaker there, ranking 52nd in the country with a 44.7 percent success rate (The Terps are 26th). The Big Red won 6 of 22 faceoffs last weekend, three of which were in the first quarter. Because Cornell still scores a high rate, Maryland will need to control possession to be successful.

Three things to watch

  1. How will the Terps start? Maryland played its worst half of the season last weekend against Robert Morris. The Terps were outshot, outhustled and simply outplayed in the first 30 minutes against the Colonials. While Robert Morris was a solid team, it’s no Cornell. That first-half performance will result in a worse deficit if it happens again Sunday.
  2. Can Maryland control the faceoff dot? Austin Henningsen saved the day last week, winning 13 of 18 faceoffs after coming off the bench. Freshman Justin Shockey struggled a lit bit in the first half before Henningsen took over. Cornell is not great at the X, and if Maryland can control possession and keep it away from the Big Red offense, that’ll help significantly.
  3. Can the defense take the pressure off Dan Morris? The defense wasn’t great last weekend, as Robert Morris won several 1-on-1 matchups that led to easy goals in front of net. Had it not been for Morris’ 11-first half saves, Maryland’s halftime deficit would’ve been worse. Morris only had to make two saves in the second half due to less pressure.