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Maryland men’s lacrosse vs. Virginia NCAA quarterfinals preview

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The former ACC rivals will renew their rivalry this weekend.

Maryland men’s lacrosse vs. Penn State Lila Bromberg / Testudo Times

Maryland men’s lacrosse will make its sixth straight NCAA Tournament quarterfinal appearance on Saturday, facing old rival in Virginia at Hofstra University on Long Island.

The No. 3-seed Cavaliers (14-3) enter the quarterfinals after dispatching Robert Morris (Maryland’s first-round opponent in last year’s tournament) 19-10 in the first round. Virginia got off to a slow start this season, with early losses to Loyola and High Point, but steamrolled its way to 13 wins out of 14 games to finish as ACC champs and a top-three seed in the tournament.

It’s been neck-and-neck with throughout the all-time series between the two programs, with Maryland holding a slight edge at 47-44. But the matchup has since become dormant, as the squads haven’t met in over five years. Despite there being a significant gap between this weekend’s game and the most recent meeting in 2014, head coach John Tillman says there’s still some semblances of Dom Starsia’s tenure left over with this year’s Cavaliers squad.

“You watch on film, and when I think of Virginia, they just look like a Virginia team,” Tillman said. “When I think of Coach Starsia, those are the guys that he put together, and it looks like Coach [Lars] Tiffany has adopted a very similar style, has his own tweaks but same old, same old with Virginia that I grew up with.”

The game begins at noon ET and will be televised on ESPNU.

No. 3-seed Virginia Cavaliers (14-3, 3-1 ACC)

2018 record: 12-6, 1-3 ACC

Head coach Lars Tiffany enters his third season in Starsia’s stead, leading the ‘Hoos to a 34-17 record and two NCAA Tournament appearances. Tiffany has perennially pumped out high-scoring offenses since his arrival, guiding Virginia to top-10 finishes in scoring offense in each of his first three seasons at the helm.

Players to know

Sophomore attack Matt Moore (No. 5) scores just as well as he assists, notching 38 goals and 39 dimes en route to a team-best 77 points. If not for the embarrassment of riches at the attack position in Division I this season, Moore would likely be in the Tewaaraton discussion. His offensive versatility makes him a threat to create for either himself or a teammate whenever he touches the ball.

Sophomore attack Ian Laviano (No. 3) joins Moore to form a talented underclassmen duo that helped lead the Cavaliers to 14.3 goals per game, good for fifth-most in the country. Laviano was the team’s leading goal scorer this season, scoring on 41 occasions after totaling 37 as a freshman.

Junior LSM Jared Conners (No. 28) has been one of the better long-stick midfielders in the nation for the better part of the last two seasons, following up a strong sophomore campaign with 46 ground balls and 25 caused turnovers. Facing another talented FOGO this weekend in Petey LaSalla, ground balls in the middle of the field will be at a premium, making Conners someone the Terps need to make sure they check.

Strength

Scoring offense. Virginia’s scoring attack is one of the best in Division I, and can run it up if given the chance. Tiffany has all the ammunition he needs to drop 14-plus goals against anyone, with four different players scoring over 34 goals this season. Saturday’s game could easily turn into a shootout.

Weakness

Clears. If possessions are as hard to come by as they were last weekend, Maryland may need to look outside the faceoff dot to find those extra chances. Somewhere the Terps may be able to do so is pressuring Virginia on clears. The Cavaliers convert on just 82 percent of their clear attempts, which ranks the lowest out of any team remaining in the NCAA Tournament.

Three Things to Watch

1. Can the FOGO squad rebound? Although going toe-to-toe with Alex Woodall is no easy task, Maryland will need more out of their trio of face off specialists if they want to come out on top. The three combined to win 9 of 31 face offs (29 percent), forcing Maryland to have to play from behind most of the game. Maryland found a way to overcome it last weekend, but betting on themselves being able to do that again would be a risky endeavor.

2. Will Maryland’s seniors continue to lead the charge? The Terps have been able to lean on their senior leaders all season, and the game against Towson was no different. Senior goalie Danny Dolan kept Maryland in it with a spectacular 15 save performance, and senior Louis Dubick totaled four points and scored the goal that sent Maryland to the quarterfinals.

Although Logan Wisnauskas, Jared Bernhardt and Kyle Long’s contributions can’t be understated, Maryland’s senior leaders have come through time and time again this season, and will likely be relied upon to do so again Saturday.

3. Will this one take more than 60 minutes to decide? Maryland’s last game against Towson was its fourth overtime game of the season, with the win moving the Terps to 3-1 in such games.

“[It’s] just the mindset of never being out of it. At Ohio State is was essentially the same game,” Dubick said. “We know in overtime, the longer it goes, the more your heart pounds a little bit, so we try to end it as soon as possible.”

Virginia knows its way around overtime periods, as well, going 3-0 in games that have gone to overtime this year. But if anything, Maryland should be prepared if both teams are tied at the end of regulation.