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Maryland men’s lacrosse vs. Rutgers preview

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The No. 3 Terps are back on the road after an extended homestand.

Maryland men’s lacrosse celebration vs. Richmond Lila Bromberg / Testudo Times

Maryland men’s lacrosse will be on the road for the first time in nearly a month, traveling to New Jersey to face Rutgers on Sunday night.

Adding to whatever discomfort there may be in having to play on the road for the first time in a while, Rutgers hasn’t been the easiest place for Maryland to play as of late. The Terps hold a commanding 29-1 all-time record against the Scarlet Knights, but two of their last three matchups have been decided by one goal, with the last time Maryland played at Rutgers finishing in a triple-OT win for the Terps.

“Going into any opponent’s stadium is tough to play, and if you look [at] Rutgers the past couple of times we’ve gone up there, it’s been difficult for us,” senior midfield Will Snider said. “You just gotta know it’s a hostile environment and we’re not gonna have the fans on our side.”

Maryland is in the thick of its Big Ten slate, with each game from this point until the end of the season having an impact on seeding in the conference tournament. Add the fact that Maryland checks in at No. 3 in the country, and the Terps know every game is going to be a battle.

“Every game for us is big,” redshirt sophomore attack Logan Wisnauskas said. “We’re getting everyone’s best shot.”

Wisnauskas comes into this game after one of his best performances as a Terp, tying a career high of eight points on five goals and three assists, his second eight-point performance this season.

He wasn’t alone in his effort, though, as his counterpart Jared Bernhardt tallied eight points of his own against Michigan last week as well. The two have wreaked havoc on opposing defenses all season, both doing a fantastic job in taking on greater leadership roles within the offense this year.

“Coach says it all the time, ‘Connor Kelly isn’t walking through the door and neither is Tim Rotanz,’” Wisnauskas said. “Those guys were our leaders last year and this year it’s obviously Jared. He’s a captain and he’s one of the best players in the country.”

Sunday night’s game will be played in primetime at 7 p.m. ET and, like all of Maryland’s Big Ten games, will be televised on the Big Ten Network.

Rutgers Scarlet Knights (6-5, 1-1 Big Ten)

2018 Record: 9-6, 2-3

Head coach Brian Brecht won Big Ten Coach of the Year back in 2016 after leading the Scarlet Knights to an 11-5 record, turning around a program that had previously struggled against in-conference competition. Although hovering around .500 currently, Brecht has had to lead his team through a difficult non-conference schedule, with all four of their losses coming to ranked opponents.

Players to know

Junior attack Kieran Mullins (No. 4) does a bit of everything for the Scarlet Knight attack, leading Rutgers in points this season with 21 goals and 30 assists in nine games. Michigan’s Alex Buckanavage plays a similar role for his team and scored three times and assisted once against Maryland’s defense last weekend, so how Maryland handles another facilitator-scorer should be interesting to watch.

Sophomore attack Adam Charalambides (No. 8) missed the past two seasons with two different knee injuries after winning Big Ten Freshman of the Year in 2016, but has seamlessly meshed back into the Scarlet Knight’s offense. He is a pure volume shooter, leading his team by a wide margin in shots with 93, connecting on 33 of those attempts. Slowing down Rutgers’s attack will begin and end with limiting Charalambides and Mullins.

Senior goalie Max Edelmann (No. 10) has been one of the best keepers in the Big Ten since transferring from JuCo, starting in cage each of the last three seasons for the Scarlet Knights. Edelmann ranks in the top 3 in the country in save percentage, earning him a spot on Inside Lacrosse’s Midseason All-American team.

Strength

Man-down defense. Maryland’s man-up unit has struggled for most of this season, converting just 26.7 percent of the time compared to the 58.1 percent mark it maintained in 2018. It won’t get any easier on Sunday night, as Rutgers shuts down EMOs at an 85.5 percent clip, good for first in the Big Ten and second in Division I.

Weakness

Faceoffs. Senior faceoff specialist Austin Henningsen had one of his best games of the season against Michigan by winning 22 of 29 faceoffs, and should be able to keep that success going against Rutgers. With the Scarlet Knights winning just 40.4 percent of the time, Henningsen should be at an advantage at the face off X.

Three things to watch

  1. Will teams continue to 10-man Maryland? Several teams have deployed different 10-man ride looks against the Terps this year, with Michigan’s immediate pull of its goalie from cage being the most recent example. But at this point, Maryland expects teams to try and attack it with 10-man looks, making sure it preps for different iterations.

“There’s certain teams where you know it’s coming. We have an idea of that type of stuff coming in so we practice it.” Snider said. “I think moving forward, if you’re another Big Ten team, you look at us and you say, ‘well we should just 10-man them’, so you know it’s something that we’re really gonna harp on, and I think we’ll do a good job this week and weeks moving forward kinda fixing that part of our game up.”

2. Can Rutgers pull off another upset? Although 1-5 this season against ranked opponents, Rutgers’ sole victory came in dominant fashion against then-No. 4 Ohio State two weeks ago. For a team fighting for a conference tournament bid to try and extend its season as well as one that’s capable of an upset, dispatching Rutgers on Sunday night likely won’t come easily for the Terps.

3. Can Jared Bernhardt stay hot? Not only did Bernhardt’s performance last week earn him Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week, but was also his fifth consecutive game with a hat trick, tying him with Joe Walters (2004) and putting him just two games behind Andrew Combs (2001) for consecutive hat tricks in program history. The Terps have ridden Bernhardt’s hot hand all season, and the junior could etch his name atop the program’s record books if he can keep things rolling.