Is it Memorial Day yet? This weekend’s NCAA Quarterfinal matchups have that feeling. This afternoon, Maryland will take on Virginia in the final college lacrosse game of the weekend.
The two teams have combined to win three of the last four NCAA National Championships. They met last year in an epic NCAA National Championship bout. Virginia won, but Maryland held with the Cavaliers down to the last second in one of the best lacrosse games all season.
In March, the two teams met at Audi Field in Washington D.C. The Terps dispatched the Cavaliers 23-12.
Maryland is on a historic pace this season. They’re undefeated and winning games by an average of 9.2 goals a game. Many see the Terps winning the NCAA National Championship as inevitable.
Here are three keys to determining if the Avengers, AKA the Cavaliers, can make it a game and pull off the upset.
Wierman is second in the country, winning 66.3% of his faceoffs. The Terp FOGO went 24-36 at the X in March and enabled Maryland to play make-it-take-it all day against UVA.
The Cav’s Petey LaSalla had no answers for Wierman. He was 5-18 on the day, leaving UVA to turn to sophomore Gable Braun, who didn’t fare much better. LaSalla battled a shoulder injury in late March/early April that could’ve contributed to his and UVA’s troubles at the X.
When LaSalla is right, he gives UVA extra possessions and is an offensive threat. His numbers have improved since mid-April. Expect a more even contest on Sunday.
Maryland’s Offense vs. Virginia’s Defense
Maryland’s offense has been nearly unstoppable this year. The top-ranked Terps have thrived in Bobby Benson’s high-powered offense and are led by Logan Wisnauskas (52G/38A). Maryland leads the nation averaging 18.53 goals a game and has seven players with 30 or more points on the season.
John Tillman used the Transfer Portal to reinforce the Terp offense in the offseason. Adding Keegan Khan (Villanova), Jonathan Donville (Cornell), and Owen Murphy (Johns Hopkins). Maryland plays an unselfish brand of lacrosse. The Terps thrive on ball movement and finding the one-more.
Multiple times during the March matchup, the Terps were able to take advantage of the Cavaliers being out of position or late on the defensive rotation.
UVA’s defense has been average this season, ranked 44th in adjusted efficiency.
On the Quintessential Lacrosse Podcast earlier this week, Quint Kessenich and Syracuse Defensive Coordinator, Dave Pietramala, suggested UVA change up their defensive scheme. Implementing a zone or shut-off, to slow down the Terps and force them to adjust.
The Cavaliers will also need improvement between the pipes. Freshman goalie Matt Nunes had one of his worst performances of the season, saving only 38.5% of the shots he faced against the Terps.
Virginia’s Offense vs. Maryland’s Defense
The Terps held UVA to 12 goals in March and one of their lowest efficiencies of the season. Terp’s defensemen Brett Makar and Ajax Zappitello limited Shellenberger and Matt Moore from finding success on one-on-one dodges.
Virginia had the most success in using their pick game and moving the ball quickly. The video below does a good job of showing this action. Payton Cormier comes off a pick from Jeff Conner to find an open Xander Dickson on the crease for the goal.
UVA will need a big game from Shellenberger and Matt Moore. They not only bring points but energy. They will need the points and the energy to defeat the Terps.
No blowout this time. This game again comes down to the final possession. Logan Wisnauskas finds the net to send the Terps to Memorial Day weekend.
Maryland 18 Virginia 17