Duke at Maryland: Three things to watch

No. 3 Terps welcome No. 1 and reigning national champion Blue Devils to College Park in final showdown as Atlantic Coast Conference rivals

March 01, 2014|By Edward Lee, The Baltimore Sun

In Maryland’s 88-year history playing lacrosse, the Terps and Duke have clashed 81 times, which ranks fourth behind the program’s rivalry with Johns Hopkins (103 meetings), Virginia (90) and Navy (87). Maryland has won 61 of those games and seven of the last nine contests.

The No. 1 Blue Devils (4-0), who captured last year’s national championship for the second time in four seasons, have picked up where they left off. The team has outscored its opponents, 53-32, but has not played on the road yet this season.

The offense is paced by senior attackman and 2014 Tewaaraton Award hopeful Jordan Wolf, who is tied with Loyola junior attackman Nikko Pontrello with a nation-leading 19 points on 10 goals and nine assists.

The No. 3 Terps (3-0) put an exclamation point on their young season when they trounced then-No. 2 and 2013 NCAA tournament finalist Syracuse by eight goals on Saturday. The team has not lost to Duke in College Park since 2007.

The offense’s two most experienced players – senior midfielder Mike Chanenchuk and junior attackman Jay Carlson – rank second and third on the team in points, respectively.

Here are a few factors that could play a role in the outcome at Byrd Stadium in College Park on Saturday at noon.

1) Duke defense vs. Maryland offense. As prolific as the Blue Devils are on offense, the defense can be just as domineering. Opponents have averaged just 8 goals per game, which is tied for 21st in Division I. The unit has maintained its reputation as an aggressive group, causing 8.8 turnovers per game, which is tied for 19th. Terps coach John Tillman credits former Cornell coach and current volunteer assistant Ben DeLuca for tightening Duke’s defense. “They’re really organized,” Tillman said. “Their last two games, they’ve let up six goals in each game. I think that’s made a big difference and teams are struggling to generate shots on them, and when they are, they’re getting good goalie play [from sophomore Luke Aaron].”

2) Duke’s Brendan Fowler vs. Maryland’s Charlie Raffa. Both teams’ offenses thrive on dominating time of possession, and a key factor will be the matchup at the faceoff X. Fowler, the Most Outstanding Player of last year’s NCAA tournament, has won 64 percent (57 of 89) of his draws and has collected 38 ground balls. On the other side, Raffa has won 67.2 percent (39-of-58) and scooped up 24 ground balls. Raffa and Fowler are familiar with each other from their days playing for rival high schools St. Anthony’s and Chaminade, respectively, in Long Island, N.Y., which is why Tillman wouldn’t be surprised if their battle was a wash. Blue Devils coach John Danowski figures the wing players could have a pivotal role in the faceoff battle. “The wings are going to be highly involved,” he said. “The short-stick wings, the long-stick wings, in-the-box play. If we lose the ball, we want to ride and get it back. So here, we never talk about matchups, we don’t put that kind of pressure on any one individual player. We know that Maryland is a terrific, scrappy, ground ball team, and we’re going to have to match that. That’s our goal.”

3) Duke offense vs. Maryland defense. Considered the strength of the Terps, the defense was better than solid against Syracuse. The Orange’s starting attack combined for just three goals (while totaling five assists) as Maryland’s defenders prevented them from making a run. The defense may need a similar effort against the Blue Devils’ starting attack of Wolf, senior Josh Dionne (10 goals and two assists) and sophomore Case Matheis (6, 4). The unit is complemented by a first midfield partially composed of sophomore Deemer Class (6, 6) and senior Christian Walsh (4, 2), and that unit is why Tillman said the defensive effort can’t be solely concentrated on the attack. “You have to account for everybody because I think if you focus too much on those guys, they’re unselfish enough to make the middies better,” he said. “Certainly with their experience down there, they have some highly-recruited guys in Case Matheis and Jordan that are very good, and what Josh Dionne does is as well as anybody in terms of moving without the ball and cutting and being opportunistic. I think all six of those middies that have been getting extensive time are really opportunistic. They’re really fast, and they’re a little bit like our midfielders. They lost a couple pro players, but I do think that the guys coming back are very unselfish.”

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