Maryland has won the last three meetings and now enjoys a 53-33-1 advantage in its series with Navy. But prior to those three losses, the Midshipmen had won five of six games against the Terps.
No. 4 Maryland (7-1) rebounded from its first loss of the season by outlasting then-No. 13 Virginia, 9-7, last Saturday. According to Tempo Free Lax’s website, the Terps rank first in Division I in possession percentage – an indicator aided by the team ranking sixth in the country in faceoff percentage (60.1 percent) and eighth in ground balls per game (35.0).
Navy (3-7) absorbed its fourth consecutive loss last Saturday when Lehigh pulled out a 12-7 decision. The setback eliminated the Midshipmen from consideration for the Patriot League tournament, which is composed of the top four teams in the conference.
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Here are a few factors that could influence the outcome at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis Friday night.
1) Limit Maryland’s transition offense. The Terps are one of the most proficient teams at turning defense into offense, and they proved that in the victory over the Cavaliers when senior long-stick midfielder Jesse Bernhardt scored twice in unsettled situations. Bernhardt has recorded three goals and two assists this season, and senior short-stick defensive midfielder Landon Carr has posted two goals and three assists. Navy coach Rick Sowell said the key revolves around the Midshipmen offensive players being selective with their shots and avoiding attempts that redshirt junior goalkeeper Niko Amato can stop and begin the transition. “We have to try to limit opportunities in transition and be smart, and part of that has to do with how we play on the offensive end,” Sowell said. “If we’re taking crazy shots that are relatively easy saves for Niko, that’s going to allow them to get out and run.”
2) Don’t overextend against Navy’s offense. The Midshipmen are one of the national leaders in turnovers per game, coughing up the ball 17.9 times this season. Navy’s starting six offensive players have been particularly generous as they have combined to give the ball away 87 times. Maryland could tilt the game’s balance by having its long poles apply pressure whenever a Midshipmen touches the ball, but coach John Tillman pointed out that there is a risk involved. “The thing that concerns you with Navy is they do have some quick attackmen,” he said. “Do you risk overextending to leave yourself a little vulnerable so that some of their players can maybe get a step on you and get some leverage? If you had just stayed in front and played real disciplined, smart, solid defense, you wouldn’t have to help or support because they are a very unselfish group. They’re a group that shares the ball, finds the extra guy. … We have to be careful of, if we overextend, are we creating more offense for them? So we’re going to have to be really smart with that.”
3) Influence Maryland to take low-percentage shots. That’s easier said than done as the Terps are tied with top-ranked Denver for the national lead in shot percentage at 37.3. There’s enough experience in Maryland’s offense for that unit to dodge and pull the ball back out if an opportunity doesn’t present itself. So the onus will be on Navy’s defense to get into the hands of the Terps shooters and disrupt their rhythm. “They’re shooting 37 percent, and that’s obviously a fairly high percentage,” Sowell said. “We’re obviously going to try to limit their shots, which is not easy. But since they are so darn accurate, you’ve got to hope your goalie is up for a big game. That could be a big part of this as well.”