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Cornell (12-3) at Maryland (10-3)
A few weeks ago, this matchup looked like the national championship. Maryland lost in the ACC tournament, and Cornell was upset in the Ivy League tournament. From a quality standpoint, this is as good as it gets in the first round.
Background checks: Maryland has lost in back-to-back national championships. The Terps tore it up in February and March but cooled off in April. Cornell has lost three one-goal games. The Big Red is a top-five team whose playoff resume was lacking in the eyes of the committee. The ACC is 36-7 versus the Ivy League since 2009.
Star power: Rob Pannell has set all kinds of Ivy and Cornell records, averaging 5.3 points a game this year. The country's best dodging attackman from behind the goal, he understands the geography of getting to the paint.
Maryland goalie Niko Amato (.612 save percentage) has always played well in the NCAA tournament, saving .577 in eight games with a 6-2 record.
What could make the difference?
For Maryland, attackmen Kevin Cooper (Archbishop Spalding, pictured) and Owen Blye can't disappear. Which version of Big Red goalie AJ Fiore will show up?
Neither team is deep. This game should be decided in the last 12 minutes. It hinges on mental toughness and hunger. Both squads are respected for their attitude. Neither will back down.
March 10, 2013