While Navy and No. 6 Maryland appear to be heading in opposing directions, this contest is critical for both teams. The Midshipmen (4-6) may have just one road to the NCAA tournament in capturing the Patriot League tournament, but a victory over the Terps would propel Navy through the remainder of the regular season. Maryland (7-2) is coming off of a decisive 12-7 win against No. 7 Virginia, but a loss to the Midshipmen would likely take the wind out of the Terps’ sails. Here are a few factors that could influence the outcome at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis on Friday night.
1) Stop the run. Echoing the sentiment of many opposing coaches, Navy coach Richie Meade stressed the need to handcuff – or at least slow down – Maryland’s transition game. The Terps scored four in transition in the team’s decision against the Cavaliers. For the Midshipmen, it’s a strategy that they are familiar with. “It was the same theme against Georgetown, it’ll be the same theme against Army, the same theme against Hopkins,” Meade said. “To be honest with you, the best way to stop that is when you shoot the ball, it needs to go in. I think he [redshirt freshman goalie Niko Amato] does a very good job of stopping the ball and then getting it out. I think you’ve got to be aware of [senior long-stick midfielder] Brian Farrell and you’ve got to be aware of [sophomore long-stick midfielder] Jesse Bernhardt. They get out very, very well, and you’ve just got to protect your backcourt and make sure that the off-side guy away from the ball is going to get back deep. The other thing you’ve got to do is get in the goalie’s face and hope that he throws it to the side and not a straight outlet pass.”
2) Keep an eye on the freshmen. Attackman Tucker Hull leads Navy in points (33), while linemate Sam Jones is pacing the team in goals (21). The pair of precocious rookies have contributed to the offense averaging 10.0 goals this season. That’s why Maryland coach John Tillman is paying a good deal of attention to the freshman duo. “I think those kids play with a lot of poise,” Tillman said. “They’re very dangerous because they move very well without the ball. They don’t try to do too much. They share the ball, they’re very unselfish. They’re good finishers. They’re sophomores essentially after that year at NAPS [Naval Academy Preparatory School]. So I look at them as a year older than some other people do.”
3) Youth vs. experience. Terps sophomore faceoff specialist Curtis Holmes garnered a good deal of publicity for beating North Carolina freshman R.G. Keenan, and Holmes ranks 10th in Division I with a 62.4 success rate. His opponent on Friday night, Logan West, isn’t exactly a slouch. The junior has won 54.9 percent of his faceoffs, which ranks 25th. Handcuffing Holmes is a priority, according to Meade. “I think what Maryland has been very good at is getting goals off the faceoff,” he said. “That’s something that we’ve focused on. What we have to do is try to prevent them from scoring goals – either by Curtis popping it out in front of himself and going and getting it or Farrell or one of the other guys coming off the wing and creating an unsettled opportunity. So that’s really the focus.”