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2024 NCAA Division 1 Men’s Lacrosse Championship Preview

Notre Dame will play for the 2024 NCAA Men’s Lacrosse Championship for the second year in a row as they take on Maryland at noon at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia.

The two programs have met 17 times with the first encounter coming in 1995 where Maryland controls a 9-8 lead all-time. Six of the last eight contests have been close matchups, being decided by two goals or fewer while three of the last six contests have gone to overtime. The two teams have met in the NCAA Tournament five times with Maryland holding a 3-2 advantage. Maryland, of course, played Notre Dame at South Bend earlier this season in a top-ten matchup; the Fighting Irish came out on top, 14-9. Devon McLane led Notre Dame with six points while the Terps got four points from Eric Malever. The Fighting Irish won their first NCAA championship in 2023, taking down Duke 13-9 in the title game on Memorial Day in Philadelphia. It was the fourth-ever appearance in the NCAA championship title game for Notre Dame.

Let’s look at the three key factors that are going to determine the outcome of this 2024 NCAA Men’s Lacrosse Championship!

Notre Dame’s Defense

This season, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish defense has been nothing short of stellar. This was just proven in the semifinal days ago when they held one of the highest-scoring offenses in the country to just six goals. Notre Dame has repeatedly shown it can play lockdown a team’s best player or two which typically throws opposing offenses out of rhythm. For John Tillman and Maryland, that may be the biggest key—rely on a plethora of players to find the back of the net. Since there are no marquee names on the Maryland offense, Notre Dame isn’t going to be able to just lockdown two or three guys, as Maryland’s offensive structure relies on everyone playing their part.

Again, Notre Dame’s very good at game planning for special matchups or special players, but because Maryland doesn’t rely largely on one or two guys to be the answer offensively, this could favor the Terrapins, or be their downfall. It is very tough to not have a “face” of the team to turn to, so Maryland really will need to do more than just go through the motions against this great defensive Notre Dame squad if they are to stick around here.

Maryland’s Face-off Play

Both teams have elite level faceoff specialists that can change the game. Will Lynch for Notre Dame was 18-23 vs Denver and Luke Wierman went 15-22 for Maryland vs Virginia. When reminiscing on this game from Notre Dame/Denver, the primary cause that allowed the Fighting Irish to win the game was their ability to strike on back-to-back multiple goal swings.

Denver played a pretty game of defense but Notre Dame’s face-off skills would not allow Pioneers to put too many goals on the board. Maryland will need to limit Notre Dame’s ability to score multiple goals within the space of a few minutes. Wierman will have his work cut out for him and must ensure he limits Notre Dame’s possessions as much as possible. The quick multiple goal runs in most games are not necessarily catastrophic, but when playing for a national title, they can set teams far ahead of their opponents, especially when the face-off battle turns lopsided.

Transition Opportunities

One thing that can help with both of the issues above would be great transition play from both teams. Scoring in settled lacrosse, especially at the high level, has gotten harder over the years, as defenses are so good at packing it in and understanding their rotations. Both Notre Dame and Maryland will have to finish all of their transition chances in order to make the most of the game. Both teams will likely play a little slower compared to the regular season simply due to the nature of this being the 2024 NCAA Lacrosse Championship. Despite the slower nature, the ball will still hit the turf and both teams are going to be looking to push transition as much as possible. Transition goals go a long way toward swinging momentum, so both teams have to know that and take advantage of every opportunity between the two lines.