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No. 7 Maryland vs. No. 6 Notre Dame -- 3:30 p.m. Saturday, ESPN2
The Terps (13-3) have the nation's best scoring defense, led by senior goalie Niko Amato. The Philadelphia-area native has won 48 games and is part of a graduating class that's been to championship weekend three times. Maryland wins by making stops and dominating the possession stats with faceoff man Charlie Raffa. Their offense went dormant in losses to North Carolina, Johns Hopkins and Notre Dame. Mike Chanenchuk (pictured on right) is the trigger man, having scored 35 goals while drawing the long pole. The Terps' freshman class accounts for over 30 percent of their scoring.
Maryland hasn't won an NCAA championship since 1975, but coach John Tillman has them in the hunt once again. "We have to be who we are: Play fast and think ahead, trying to make adjustments based on the two prior games against Notre Dame," Tillman said. A home-field advantage could push Maryland to the top of the mountain.
What to watch on Maryland: For my money, Mike Chanenchuk has put together a Midfielder of the Year season. If Chanenchuk can't score, how will Maryland keep up?
Maryland X-factor: Raffa has been a warrior all year, battling leg injuries and wearing a large knee brace while winning possessions. He won 81 percent of the faceoffs against Notre Dame in the teams' two games this season. Raffa played with a noticeable limp in the quarterfinals. Can he make it through the weekend?
The Fighting Irish (11-5) were 6-5 and on the brink of extinction when they upset Maryland, 6-5, in an Atlantic Coast Conference tournament semifinal. The win gave Notre Dame and coach Kevin Corrigan a second wind, and the ACC champions have averaged 15 goals per game in their last four wins.
"We never quit, we adjust and adapt and do what we have to do to compete," said Corrigan. "We will play the full 60 minutes and 110 yards."
They must reload and recover emotionally and physically after an epic NCAA tournament quarterfinal overtime win over Albany. Matt Kavanagh (35 goals, 30 assists) has been clutch, providing game-winners, drawing fouls and dodging strong left-handed to pay dirt. The team is typically known for its defense but ranks No. 27 in that category this season.
May 10, 2014