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Maryland women’s lacrosse vs. Michigan preview

Two of the last three unbeaten teams will battle it out in College Park on Saturday.

Maryland women’s lacrosse Caroline Steele vs. George Mason Lila Bromberg / Testudo Times

No. 2-ranked Maryland women’s lacrosse (13-0, 3-0) will play host to No. 7 Michigan (13-0, 3-0) on Saturday in its first of two games against the last undefeated Big Ten teams.

The Wolverines’ record of 13-0 is impressive, considering they’ve played six matchups against ranked opponents, and most recently defeated No. 18 Johns Hopkins 16-11. That game, however, was the team’s largest defeat against a ranked opponent, as their other five matches were all decided by three goals or less.

The Terrapins are fresh off of a dominant 16-6 rout of Virginia on the road, which also made Cathy Reese the winningest coach in program history. With another win over a top-10 opponent under their belt, and the historic moment behind them, the Terrapins should be more prepared than ever for their latest home test.

Opening draw between Maryland and Michigan is set for 5 p.m. ET Saturday, and will be televised on the Big Ten Network.

No. 7 Michigan Wolverines (13-0, 3-0 Big Ten)

2018 record: 7-10, 2-4

Head coach Hannah Nielsen is in her second season coaching the Wolverines, and is just the second coach in the program’s young history. Nielsen herself is new to the coaching world, as she spent time as an assistant for Penn State, Towson, Colorado and Northwestern before landing the head coaching job at Michigan.

Most notably, Nielsen was one of the greatest players in women’s lacrosse history in her time at Northwestern from 2006-09. In her time as a Wildcat, Nielsen won four national championships and back-to-back Tewaaraton awards in 2008 and 2009. Northwestern went 85-3 during Nielsen’s time on the roster, and she started all 88 games for the Wildcats.

Players to know

Senior attack Adriana Pendino (No. 41) leads the Wolverines in goals, with 33 on the season, and is also tied with junior attacker Lilly Grass for the team lead with 64 shots taken. She has also been one of the leaders in free-position chances, scoring 14 of 23 attempts this season. Pendino has shown an ability to be a high-volume scorer with three games of four or more goals scored, but has also been shut down at times. Last time out against Johns Hopkins, she was held without a point, and just one shot attempt, her first scoreless game this season. Shutting her down alone wont halt Michigan’s attack, but she can’t be left open either.

Sophomore attack Caitlin Muir (No. 1) is tied with Grass for most points this season (39) despite missing a game, and leads the team with 17 assists. She has also scored 22 goals, and has put a team-best 83 percent of her shots on goal. Last time out, she put up six goals and one assist against Johns Hopkins, her most productive game yet. Keeping her marked and off of the ball could be instrumental in slowing down a Wolverines attack that averages over 14 goals per game.

Three things to watch

1. Will Brindi Griffin continue her offensive tear? Griffin, a junior attacker, has silently been one of the best offensive weapons for Maryland, and it has shown as of late. She has tallied 20 points in her last five games, including two straight four-goal performances. Her play behind the cage has been fantastic, and has resulted in some brilliant goals.

2. Megan Taylor is dominating at an astronomical level. Even compared to Taylor’s history, her 2019 season has been something to watch. She currently holds the best save percentage (60.4 percent) in Division I women’s lacrosse, which is also nearly seven percent higher than her career-best 53.5 percent in 2017. Taylor hasn’t dipped below 60 percent in her last four games, and that level of production will be immensely important as postseason play looms.

3. Can Maryland continue its home win streak? The Terrapins return home to College Park for what is likely their last home matchup against a top-10 opponent. If Maryland can get past undefeated Michigan on Saturday, the likelihood of continuing the 83-game home win streak will increase tremendously with just one regular-season home game remaining.