Maryland vs. Duke: Three things to watch

The Terps are 59-19 in their all-time series with the Blue Devils and have won five of the last six contests, including a 10-7 decision on March 3. Both teams are riding fan-rousing victories with No. 8 Maryland topping No. 9 Johns Hopkins, 9-6, and No. 5 Duke thumping No. 6 Virginia, 13-5. Because of their 2-1 record in the Atlantic Coast Conference and their head-to-head win against the Cavaliers, the Blue Devils (11-3) are the top seed in the league tournament. The Terps (7-3 overall and 1-2 in the ACC) are the fourth seed. Here are a few factors that could play a role in the outcome at Klockner Stadium in Charlottesville, Va., Friday evening.

1) Nullifying Duke’s midfielders. The Blue Devils’ starting sophomore attack of Jordan Wolf, Christian Walsh and Josh Dionne rank 1-3-4 on the team in scoring, but the offense is most potent when the midfielders are dodging with confidence and forcing slides. In Duke’s last six games, senior Robert Rotanz has registered 15 goals and one assist, fifth-year senior Justin Turri five goals and six assists and junior Jake Tripucka three goals and five assists, and that first line reminds Maryland coach John Tillman of Johns Hopkins’ starting midfield of juniors John Ranagan and John Greeley and sophomore Rob Guida. “They’re big, they can run, they can shoot,” Tillman said. “So they pose – from a physicality and size perspective – a problem. So you have to make a decision. If you’re not going to slide, you’ve got to be willing to give up some pretty good looks to guys that shoot the ball pretty hard. And if you do slide, then it’s going to potentially open up some things for guys like Jordan, Dionne or Walsh that can finish pretty well. So you’ve got to make sure that you’re all in sync and then when you do slide, you cover up the inside and you rotate and when you do come out, you take good approaches.”

2) Rattling Wigrizer. Dan Wigrizer was instrumental in the Blue Devils’ triumph over Virginia, making 14 saves and keeping that Cavaliers scoreless for two quarters. But the junior has been prone to having off days, and the Terps have scored 39 goals in four meetings with Wigrizer. If Maryland can score a couple early goals on Wigrizer, will he unravel? Tillman isn’t so sure. “He’s had some good games against us,” he said. “Last year in our first game down there, I think he had something like 17 saves [in a Duke 9-8 overtime win]. He’s capable of having that monster game. He’s a junior, he’s played for three years now. He’s very smart. He has John Galloway, the former first-team All American and all-time saves leader from Syracuse, working with him. So that’s a great benefit.”

3) Neutralizing Costabile. Faceoffs would usually be an area of strength for the Terps, but with injuries and inconsistency plaguing junior Curtis Holmes, that has become an area of concern. That’s why Tillman is sufficiently worried about Blue Devils senior long-stick midfielder C.J. Costabile, who is winning 54.4 percent (98-of-180) of his draws. And when he isn’t winning faceoffs, he is pressuring his opponent into turning the ball over or making poor decisions. “He’s a guy we have to be concerned about because in that Virginia game last week, he wasn’t always winning the draw,” Tillman said. “It was almost like he let the Virginia guy pick it up and then he went and stalked him. So we’ve worked all week on picking the ball up under pressure, handling the ball under pressure, and then getting the ball to the appropriate guy or running to an area where you can get your hands free and be able to withstand that pressure.”

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