Maryland men’s lacrosse will continue its stretch of home games on Saturday, as the Terps face North Carolina at Maryland Stadium.
The Tar Heels are just finishing the lighter half of their 2019 schedule, winning six of their first eight games of the season. However, their opponents during that stretch currently have a combined 20-30 record, while both of North Carolina’s losses came to the only two ranked opponents they faced in Johns Hopkins and Denver.
Now, the No. 19 Tar Heels face their strongest opponent of the season in Maryland, a matchup they haven’t seen too much success in the past. Although defeating the Terps in the 2016 NCAA Championship, Maryland has won each of its last two matchups against the Tar Heels, including five out of the last six since 2015. Maryland also leads the all-time series by a wide margin at 44-25, while holding 21-9 advantage in College Park.
The Terps, meanwhile, are coming off of one of their best games of the season, routing Villanova 17-7. It was a dominant win from all phases right as Maryland enters a more difficult stretch of the season.
“It was definitely an awesome win,” freshman defense Brett Makar said. “I think the offense was hitting on all cylinders, and we definitely were able to hold it down on our end, so I think it does definitely give us a little momentum going into a couple of tougher games.”
Saturday’s game will begin at 4 p.m. ET and will be televised on ESPNU.
No. 19 North Carolina Tar Heels (6-2)
2018 record: 7-7, 1-3 ACC
Head coach Joe Breschi is now in his 11th season coaching his alma mater, going 115-57 with the one aforementioned national title during his tenure. A down year in 2018 broke a nine year run of NCAA tournament appearances, but with matchups against Maryland, Duke, Virginia, Syracuse and Notre Dame in front of them, Breschi and the Tar Heels’ the road back to postseason will not be easy.
Players to know
Senior attack Andy Matthews (No. 12) quarterbacks a diverse Tar Heel scoring attack, dishing 12 assists to go along with nine goals to lead his team in points in 2019. Matthews recorded a career-high five assists against Furman back in February and excels at setting up his teammates and putting them in good positions to score.
Junior midfield William Perry (No. 3) serves as one of the primary finishers for North Carolina’s offense, with Chris Cloutier departing for Major League Lacrosse, notching a team-high 17 goals through the first eight games. In addition to scoring in thirteen consecutive contests dating back to last season, Perry is fantastic in extra-man opportunities, finishing tied for the top spot in Division I in 2018 with 11 goals while converting on four of those opportunities so far this season.
Junior defense Jack Rowlett (No. 22) checks all the boxes you want as a defender, causing a team-high 14 turnovers and scooping 22 ground balls while also scoring four goals. As a short-stick turned long pole, Rowlett has developed into one of the better defenders in the country and one that can make an impact on either side of the field.
Scoring. Something rather unorthodox about the Tar Heels this season compared to seasons passed is Breschi’s plethora of goal scoring threats across the roster. Unlike the Terps, who have two players that account for 45 percent of their goals, North Carolina has seven different players who have scored nine or more goals this season, contributing to them having a top-10 scoring offense.
“I think for them they just have great athletes all over the field,” Makar said. “Everyone can shoot the ball 80-plus miles per hour, everyone can get to the goal on that team so we just gotta be aware of that.”
Goaltending. The Tar Heels have experimented with a couple different goalies so far this season, cycling between a couple options in net while only seeing marginal success with each. Breschi rolled out junior Jack Pezzulla for the first five games of the season before opting for senior Alex Bassil, who started and won each of his last three starts. But the two have combined for an average of 9.25 saves per game, putting them at 65th best in Division I.
Three things to watch
1. Will Bubba Fairman build off his last game? After not eclipsing three points in any of Maryland’s first seven games, Fairman broke out in a big way against Villanova with a career-high six points (four goals, two assists). Expectations were high for Fairman coming into the season, with many pegging him as Maryland’s next great midfielder, but last weekend’s game felt like the first time he established himself as an aggressor offensively this season. Maintaining that level of intensity wouldn’t just benefit his own game, but would open up the rest of the offense as well and make the Terps even tougher to defend.
2. Can Maryland get the man-up unit going? The Terps have struggled to score on extra-man opportunities all season, converting just 6 of 19 chances (.316) while Jared Bernhardt, who led the team in man-up goals last season with seven, has just one. North Carolina surrenders goals on 65 percent of EMOs (40th in Division I), making for an opportunity for Maryland to perhaps sort through some of those issues.
3. Can Maryland’s offense continue to produce? Maryland’s offense has been on a tear the past few games, averaging 13.6 goals over a three-game road stretch and culminating in a 17-goal performance against Villanova. While head coach John Tillman preaches to never to get too high or too low, the Terps were admittedly feeling good about where they are offensively following their strong performance at home.
“I think sometimes we get mixed up with communicating the rights things to each other, but I think against Villanova we did a good job with that and doing what we had to do and I think that that carries over into North Carolina,” sophomore Anthony DeMaio said. “We have to do the right things and make sure we know what we’re in so we’re not wasting time on the shot clock and we can get into what we’re doing.”
Maintaining that level of play sets a pretty high standard for your offense week in week out, but given the way that unit is meshing right now meeting that standard with ease.