For the 118th time in history, Maryland men’s lacrosse will meet Johns Hopkins in “The Rivalry.”
“It’s something you look forward to,” head coach John Tillman said. “It’s something that I think as players you’ll remember for a long time, and when you’re a young guy and you’re dreaming of playing college lacrosse, like, this is the game you wanna be in.”
The Terps have only won 44 of the 118 matchups between the two teams, as the Jays have held the advantage for most of the rivalry’s existence, including a 13-10 win in last year’s Big Ten title game. But Maryland’s had success in its effort toward evening the score the last few years, winning four of the last five games against its in-state foe, with this year’s team aiming to continue that trend.
“I remember my freshman year I had guys like Matt Dunn and Nick Manis always talking about the history of our two programs,” senior defense Curtis Corley said. “They might have the longer haul on us, but we’re starting to stick it back to them a little bit.”
Maryland enters this one looking to cap another strong regular season under Tillman, going 11-2 with its only hiccups being an overtime loss in South Bend to Notre Dame and a loss at home to a Penn State team that’s been nearly unbeatable this season. Outside of that, the Terps have dispatched opponent after opponent, most recently earning an overtime win over No. 9 Ohio State on the road.
Hopkins has had more of an up-and-down year than it’s typically used to. Treading at .500 this year, the Blue Jays are playing for a Big Ten tournament berth and a shot at extending their season beyond that. I’ll spare you any “throw away the record book” clichés, but both teams will be bringing their best on Saturday night, Maryland knowing it can’t overlook Hopkins in any matchup.
“No matter the record, they always get prepared for us and it’s always a tough win, so anytime we play them we know we’re in for a battle,” senior attack Louis Dubick said. “Whatever happens with this week or so, or whatever other games are going on in the conference, it’s not any concern of ours, it’s time to take care of our business and prepare like we always do.”
The game begins at 7:30 p.m. ET following Maryland football’s spring game and a Maryland women’s lacrosse game against Johns Hopkins.
Johns Hopkins Blue Jays (6-6, 2-2 Big Ten)
2018 record: 12-5, 3-2, NCAA quarterfinals
Head coach Dave Pietramala has guided the Blue Jays through thick and thin throughout his near two-decade tenure, and will have his guys ready to roll in a must-win game. With a resume that includes 197-81 record in 19 seasons, seven Final Fours and two national titles (2005 and 2007), the chess match that’ll ensue between Pietramala and Tillman is always fun to watch.
Players to know
Senior attack Kyle Marr (No. 13), like the Blue Jays in general this season, has fallen off a bit since the the final heir to the Stanwick family graduated last spring. Leading his team in points in 2018 with 58 off 41 goals and 17 assists, Marr has had just 24 goals and nine assists in 12 starts. Marr’s served as a team captain this season for Pietramala, and will be a factor offensively in this one.
Freshman attack Joey Epstein (No. 32) has burst onto the scene immediately in his first season on campus, leading the team in points with 31 goals and 16 assists. Epstein had a prolific high school career at Landon School in Bethesda, Maryland, setting school records for goals (203), assists (133) and points (336), and has showed no signs of slowing down once he hit the Division I level.
Sophomore FOGO Kyle Prouty (No. 25) will be the latest to challenge Austin Henningsen at the faceoff X, bringing a .611 faceoff percentage with him. Henningsen has played pretty well for the Terps this season save for a couple games here and there, but Prouty will definitely put up a fight against the senior faceoff man who was selected 19th in the Premier Lacrosse League draft earlier this week.
Man-down defense. Although Hopkins is in a bit of a transition year with many of its team statistics not comparing too favorably nationally, the man-down unit still ranks among the best in Division I. The Blue Jays have prevented opponents from scoring 75.6 percent of the time when playing with one less defender, making things even harder for a Terps man-up unit that’s struggled for much of this season at a 27.3 conversion rate.
Scoring defense. For however good its man-down unit might be, Hopkins’ full six-man defense has struggled at times this season. Allowing opponents to score 13 goals per game ranks 57th in the country in that category, and the Blue Jays surrendering a season-high 20 goals to Penn State in Happy Valley last weekend. Maryland’s offense has played well following their loss to Penn State almost four weeks ago, averaging 14 goals per game during that span. You never actually know when it comes to these teams, but on paper Maryland should be able to make quick work of the Hopkins defense.
Three things to watch
1. Can Maryland end Hopkins’ season? Should Ohio State defeat Michigan, which it should, this Saturday and Maryland takes care of Johns Hopkins, the Blue Jays’ season could come to an end in College Park. An Ohio State win and a Hopkins loss would tie the to two teams at 2-3 in Big Ten play, but since the Buckeyes defeated Hopkins 14-13 at Homewood Field two weeks ago, they’d get the final spot in the Big Ten tournament next weekend.
2. Who will finish the season in the lead for points? Jared Bernhardt and Logan Wisnauskas have been neck-and-neck all season in regard to total points, with Wisnauskas holding a slight lead at this point with 65 to Bernhardt’s 64, although Bernhardt got the nod on the Tewaaraton Award nominee list. Everyone knew these two were in line to have strong seasons this year, but who finishes at the top in regard to points should be interesting to see.
3. Where will Maryland end up in the Big Ten tournament? Penn State likely already has the top seed in the conference locked up, but there are still some things that can happen in regard to the final Big Ten standings. A win locks up the No. 2 seed, but a loss and a Rutgers win over Penn State would end the season in a three-way tie between Maryland, Rutgers and Johns Hopkins at 3-2 in conference play. While Maryland would still likely end up in the 2-3 matchup, it could make the playing field feel more leveled if they all go into the tournament with the same in-conference record.