Today's game between Johns Hopkins and the University of Maryland at 1 p.m. at the Terps' Denton Field matches lacrosse teams with a lot in common.
Neither is overly talented, but both play well within the team concept. Both are in the playoff picture, but a loss would put one of them on the bubble. And both teams have goalies who have progressed during the season.
"If you look at the history of games here between the two teams, you can expect a tight one," Maryland coach Dick Edell said. "In 1985, we beat them by one in overtime. In 1987, we win by a couple of goals. Then we win by one in 1989."
Johns Hopkins coach Tony Seaman said: "Maryland is a scary team. They play within themselves and they hustle all the time. They are not a team that is going to beat itself. And that's what I like, teams that are going to self-destruct."
In its past three games, Maryland (6-2) has lost to top-ranked North Carolina (8-6) and Virginia (10-9) and beaten Navy (10-6).
The two losses have left the Terps with little margin for error. After today's game, Maryland still has the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament, and unless the Terps win it, they would suffer another loss.
That makes today's game even more crucial.
"First we have to get through this one and then the tournament, and basically it may come down to the lords of lacrosse known as the selection committee," Edell said. "If we win our remaining games, then we have nothing to worry about. Somewhere along the line though, strength of schedule has to be taken into consideration."
Maybe no team in the country plays a stronger schedule than Johns Hopkins (5-2). But with a loss today, the Blue Jays would move into the danger zone, with Towson State and Navy still left on the schedule.
Seaman has seen his team progress since losing to top-ranked North Carolina, 11-6, two weeks ago.
"Last week, when we beat Army [18-8], we had good off-the-ball movement and a good shot selection," Seaman said. "When we have those things, we're pretty tough to beat. When we don't, we can be pretty easy to beat."
Three of the game's top attackmen will be on display today. The Terps are paced by senior attackmen Mark Douglas (22 goals, 18 assists) and Rob Wurzburger (25, 6). Matt Panetta leads Johns Hopkins with 16 goals and 20 assists despite being double-teamed constantly.
Johns Hopkins had an advantage at midfield play, but will be without starting middies Adam Wright (13, 3, separated shoulder) and Charlie Speno (4, 1, pulled groin muscle). Both teams are at full strength defensively.
Blue Jays goalie Scott Giardina started slowly but has played well in recent weeks. Giardina has 84 saves and has allowed 50 goals.
Maryland's Steve Kavovit, who turned in the best game of his career last week, making 16 saves against Navy, has 78 saves while allowing 59 goals.