No. 11 Maryland has looked overpowering in 16-3 and 14-3 routs of Mount St. Mary’s and UMBC in back-to-back Saturdays, but the team’s resolve will be tested in Saturday’s road game against No. 2 and new Atlantic Coast Conference rival Syracuse.
It will be the first time since 1983 that the Terps and Orange will meet in a regular-season contest, and it will be Maryland’s first visit to Syracuse since 1960. The Terps will face an Orange program that has captured 11 national championships and will play in the fabled Carrier Dome before departing the ACC for the Big Ten conference next season.
Freshman attackman Matt Rambo said the prospect of clashing with Syracuse, which advanced to the NCAA tournament final last season, is tantalizing.
“We’re going to prepare so much,” he said after the team’s victory over UMBC on Saturday. “I don’t know if nerves is the right word. We’re going to be anxious to play. I’m anxious. I know my whole team is ready to play. We’ve been waiting. So I don’t think it’s nerves. I think we’re ready to play.”
Important regular-season games like Saturday’s can motivate players, but coach John Tillman said Maryland must find that delicate balance between being excited and getting overanxious.
“These are games that I think the young guys in your locker room get excited about,” he said Tuesday. “From the lacrosse perspective, this is why you want to come to a place like Maryland as an athlete – playing in big games. You want the guys to be excited. They need to be excited for every game, but yeah, you want to make sure that you manage the game. You don’t want the game to manage yourself. You have to be ready. They play very fast. So we have to be ready when the whistle blows. Yet we can’t be so ramped up that we start making decisions that are uncharacteristic of what we want. We can’t be undisciplined and foul because we’re excited. We can’t take bad shots. Yet a team that is as fast as Syracuse, you really have to play fast. So I think that’s going to be important to us, to make sure that we run very fast, we play fast, but our thinking is to slow that down a little bit just so that we’re making the best choice, not the first choice.”
Like the Terps, the Orange are 2-0, but they secured a significant win when they outlasted No. 7 Albany, 17-16, in overtime on Sunday. Tillman noted that the result could give Syracuse a lot of momentum into Saturday.
“When you take on a team like Albany whom we have a lot of respect for, you battle against a team like that and you come out with a W, I’m sure that’s got to do wonders for your confidence, just knowing that you’re taking on one of the best teams in the country,” he said. “And obviously with us coming to town, they’re probably thinking, ‘We’ve had a little bit of a tougher schedule,’ and maybe that does help them. Trying to shut down that Albany offense, it’s not easy, but they certainly did enough to get the W in a very high-scoring, very exciting game. We haven’t faced an offense like that, and they’ve had the ability to do that. So that might be an advantage for them.”