For the first time in almost a month, Maryland men’s lacrosse will be playing at home as it faces Villanova on Saturday.
The now-No. 6 Terps are coming off a three-week stretch of away games, going 2-1 during that period. Now, they come home to face Villanova, a team they’re 10-1 against in 11 meetings. Maryland defeated the Wildcats last season in Philadelphia, winning 13-11 behind four Jared Bernhardt goals, but fell in overtime at home to Villanova in 2017.
Villanova shot up the NCAA polls earlier this season after upsetting No. 1 Yale, boosting the Wildcats up into the top 15 in the country. But consecutive losses to Penn and Drexel in the Philly 4 Lacrosse Classic dropped them to 3-3 and out of the most recent poll. Now, they have three road games ahead of them to get their season back on track, with that push beginning in College Park.
Maryland, now at the halfway point of the regular season, still only sits with one loss so far in 2019. But for a young Terps squad, win or lose, they’re taking each game as an opportunity to learn and improve for the future.
“Obviously you never wanna lose, but when you do, you learn some things,” senior attack Louis Dubick said. “You move forward and guys learn from their mistakes and as long as you can get better and capitalize and make good on those [mistakes] our potential is kinda uncapped.”
Satursay’s game begins at 3 p.m. ET and will be streamed on BTN2Go.
2018 record: 10-6, 3-2 Big East
Head coach Mike Corrado has been the man at the helm for the Wildcats since 2006, with 2019 marking his 13th year as head coach of the program. Corrado boasts a 102-86 (.542) career record, leading Villanova to their third NCAA tournament in 2018 and their first since 2011.
Players to Know
Freshman midfielder Matt Campbell (No. 3) has made an immediate impact in his first season with the Wildcats, scoring 15 goals through six games to lead the team in scoring. Campbell scored six against Delaware earlier this season, and will be one of Villanova’s primary scoring threats on Saturday.
Junior midfielder Connor Kirst (No. 34) hails from the same high school as Campbell, and is just as much of threat as a scorer. In addition to scoring the game-winning goal against Yale, Kirst has scored nine goals in the past two games to bring his season total to 13, adding five assists.
Freshman goalie Will Vitton (No. 30) and senior goalie Nick Testa (No. 26) make up one of the more interesting concepts in college lacrosse, as Corrado rotates between the two goalies on a game-by-game basis. Vitton has the higher save percentage of the two, with a 48 percent mark compared to the senior’s 42 percent. Testa has seen the field slightly more than Vitton so far this season, but whether Corrado goes with one or the other, or both, against the Terps should be interesting to see.
Clears. One of the things the Wildcats have excelled at this season is adapting to the new NCAA clearing rule, succeeding on 20 second clears 92.4 percent of the time in 2019. That rate ranks first in Division I, making the possibility of a successful ten-man ride from Maryland pretty unlikely.
Faceoffs. Villanova ranks 36th nationally in faceoff percentage at 50 percent, which, although an improvement from last season, is one of the lower marks the Terps have faced this season. Faceoff specialist Dan Fisher has had a good season, winning 51 of 93 draws, good for a 54 percent winning clip. His counterpart, Zack Ornstein, has had a rougher go at it in 2019, winning just 47 percent of his 60 draws this year. Lining up against the fourth overall pick in the 2019 MLL draft in Austin Henningsen (65 percent) and Justin Shockey (59 percent) will be a difficult task for the Wildcats.
Three things to watch
1. Can Villanova pull off another big upset? As mentioned, the Wildcats pulled off one of the bigger upsets of the season, defeating top-ranked Yale on the road. Although their season has been up-and-down since then, head coach John Tillman won’t take Villanova lightly.
“It will definitely be a challenge,” Tillman said. “Obviously they went up to Yale and beat the defending national champions, so we’ve seen what this team can do.”
2. Will Kyle Long’s stock continue to rise? After seeing the field and feeling things out his first couple of games, the freshman midfielder has begun to thrive as a contributor on Maryland’s second midfield line.
“Roman [Puglise] and Bubba [Fairman] told me, ‘Listen, it’s gonna click for you, it’s just gonna happen,’” Long said. “I felt like against Colgate, it just kinda clicked and slowed down, and its just continued to get slower and I’m really just starting to find my way.”
The freshman currently has three goals and six assists, including a two-goal and two-assist performance at Notre Dame. In a season where Tillman has had to rely on a lot of young talent, Long has been one of those reliable guys, looking more and more comfortable at the Division I level as the season goes on.
3. Can Maryland stay undefeated at home? The Terps have defended their home well so far this season, winning every game they’ve played at Maryland Stadium in 2019. But they’ve only played three games at home, and one of those games was a narrow win against Richmond. Playing well at home is important for any team, but will be especially so for Maryland with visits from No. 1 Penn State and No. 17 Johns Hopkins on the horizon.