Maryland has won four of the past five contests against Duke, including last year’s victories in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament final and the NCAA tournament semifinal. The No. 7 Terps (2-0) have dropped the last two meetings in College Park, but the No. 10 Blue Devils (3-1) suffered their only loss of the season on the road when they fell to Notre Dame, 7-3, on Feb. 18. Here are a few factors that could influence the outcome at Byrd Stadium in College Park on Saturday.
1) Maryland’s defense. A unit that was supposed to be the most vulnerable piece has fared much better than anticipated. The first-year starting close defense of sophomores Michael Ehrhardt and Brian Cooper (team-high five caused turnovers) and freshman Goran Murray have been solid, and junior long-stick midfielder Jesse Bernhardt (nine ground balls and four caused turnovers) has been a leader. They must handle a Duke offense powered by sophomore attackman Jordan Wolf, who leads the ACC in points (14). “The Maryland kids are going to be well-coached, they’re going to be athletic,” Blue Devils coach John Danowski said. “While they may be a little short on experience, they’re not much shorter than our attack. And all it takes is a terrific athlete sometimes to contain an attackman or stick to a good plan, and they have both of that. They have great athletes, and they’ve got a great coaching staff. They have a tremendous tradition and great pride in what they do.”
2) Faceoffs. Many people are familiar with Terps junior Curtis Holmes' prowess on draws, having won 72.3 percent (34 of 47) thus far. But Duke senior C.J. Costabile isn’t too shabby either, succeeding at 60 percent (24 of 40) of faceoffs. “Every game, the faceoffs are so critical,” Danowski said. “Our goal each week is to win 55 percent, but we look at faceoffs as a team game. We look at wing play, we look at what we do in the offensive box and defensive box. So we try not to put pressure on any one person.”
3) Ground balls. Both teams are well-renowned for pouncing on loose balls. Maryland has collected 36 more ground balls than its opponents, while the Blue Devils have scooped up 57 more ground balls than their opponents. Danowski agreed that the balance of loose balls could help determine the winning team Saturday. “It’s like rebounding,” he said. “It doesn’t take a lot of skill. It seems to me that Maryland has always prided itself on being tough and hard-nosed, and we try to emulate what Maryland does. We want to be like that as well. So it’s rebounding. It’s picking up those loose balls so you can play more offense and less defense. That’s always the goal each week – no matter who you play.”