Maryland midfielder Connor Cannizzaro (middle) moves the… (Matt Cashore, USA Today…)
The Maryland and Notre Dame men's lacrosse teams entered the season having met five times in their histories.
On Saturday, they will face each other for the third time in just over a month.
The Terps (13-3), who are the seventh seed in the NCAA tournament, won the first meeting, 12-8, on April 19. But six days later, the Fighting Irish (11-5), the sixth seed, returned the favor with a 6-5 decision in an Atlantic Coast Conference tournament semifinal that launched the team to its first tournament championship.
The winner of the rubber match will move on to Monday's title game against either top-seeded Duke (15-3) or fifth-seeded Denver (16-2).
"It's definitely interesting," Maryland senior attackman Mike Chanenchuk said. "This has happened to us before with Duke [in 2011 and 2012]. So it's kind of a familiar matchup. I think for us splitting them in the regular season, it definitely makes it interesting. I think it's a little bit easier to scout the team. We're familiar with them, we're familiar with their personnel. It definitely makes it little bit easier, but you know that they're probably going to mix something up and throw something different at you. They're a really good team, and we're looking forward to it."
History would appear to be on the Terps' side. Since the NCAA tournament was expanded to a 16-team field for the 2003 season, there have been nine instances when a pair of schools met three times in a single campaign; the team that won the first meeting went on to win the third contest six times.
Most recently, Maryland defeated Duke in the 2012 regular season, lost in the ACC tournament and won in the NCAA semifinals.
The year before, the Terps met Duke and North Carolina three times. In both cases, Maryland lost the regular-season games, but beat the Blue Devils and Tar Heels in the ACC and NCAA tournaments.
Coach John Tillman said there is a familiarity for both sides but also room for variation.
"I think certain aspects like preparation and knowing your opponent and just some of the basic stuff like personnel groups and some of the formations make it a little bit easier," he said. "I think what makes it harder is, you realize how talented that group is, and they know you very well. You can't get away from who you are, but you're wondering, 'Can we throw in any little different wrinkles? Are there some different ways we can maybe attack? Are there any things we can learn from the last few games, or what they're doing most recently, that we can learn from?'"
Starting with their win over the Terps in the ACC tournament, Notre Dame has cobbled together a five-game winning streak and averaged 13.2 goals over that stretch, compared to 11.5 goals in the first 11 contests.
That setback to the Fighting Irish in the ACC tournament still resonates with the Maryland players, according to senior long-stick midfielder Michael Ehrhardt.
"They took something that was definitely one of our goals at the beginning of the year," he said. "But it's a new game, and we're playing for something different now. It's do-or-die. If you lose, you go home. We want to be that winning team, and we're really looking forward to doing that."