COLLEGE PARK — Maryland and Navy said all the right things about continuing their series, but with the Terps moving to the Big Ten Conference this summer, its likely that their annual rivalry will have to move from late April and early May to February or early March.
“Our goal is to keep it going,” coach John Tillman said after No. 7 Maryland’s 12-6 victory over the Midshipmen on Saturday at Byrd Stadium. “I think it’s pretty important to a lot of people around here. … We understand the importance and the history of the rivalry. We will do everything that we can to try to do it and keep it going. We have to move it because the last six weekends of the year, by rule, have to be Big Ten games. So we’re going to have to move it out of necessity, and I think if everybody’s is flexible, we will be able to work out a date. That would be our goal. I’m open to discussions to talk about a time that would work out well for everybody.”
The Terps-Navy series is the Midshipmen’s second-longest rivalry (trailing only Army) and Maryland’s third longest (trailing only Johns Hopkins and Virginia). The Terps lead 55-33-1, but Navy coach Rick Sowell said he wants to maintain the series.
“We’ve talked about it, but we’ve got to figure it out now,” he said. “It’s one thing to be committed, but it’s another thing to figure it out. With our schedule, with their schedule, we’re trying to make it work. It’s definitely going to be earlier than this. A year from now, that’s their Big Ten championship playoffs. Who knows? It might even be a midweek game. We’re going to sit down. Certainly, we’re committed to trying. Whether it works out or not remains to be seen, but the commitment to play them is there on both sides.”
Circling back to “Three Things to Watch” …
1) Navy’s man-up offense flops again. The Midshipmen dug deeper into futility, flailing on three extra-man opportunities. The unit ended the season going 1-for-19 in its last six games and 7-for-39 (17.9 percent) for the year. Maryland would have been a prime candidate for Navy to break out of its slump against, as the Terps entered the game ranked 53rd in Division I in man-down defense after killing just 56.8 percent of opponents’ extra-man situations. But the Midshipmen could not find an answer Saturday.
“We’re just doing some wrong things, whether it’s a shot or making a bad decision or poor execution,” Sowell said. “We tried to keep it as basic as we can. We had some looks, we had some opportunities. It was just one of those things. We’ll put it under the microscope throughout the offseason. We’ve got to do much better next year. Certainly, it’s an area where we’ve got to find a way to score some goals — not just on six-on-six, but in extra-man, transition.”
2) Maryland’s transition offense, not defense, takes center stage. The Terps struggled with their transition defense in a 6-5 loss to No. 3 Notre Dame in an Atlantic Coast Conference tournament semifinal April 25 as the Fighting Irish scored three times in transition and almost got another. Maryland turned the tables by scoring twice in transition in the first quarter. A strip by senior long-stick midfielder Michael Ehrhardt led to a goal by junior defenseman Casey Ikeda to give the Terps a 1-0 lead, and another caused turnover by sophomore Matt Dunn (Loyola Hoya) led to a goal by freshman attackman Matt Rambo with 1:12 left in the period.
“I did love the fact that we tried to get out a little bit more today,” Tillman said. “Obviously, the first goal was Casey coming down. We created some more unsettled opportunities. We need to continue to do that, and we need to make better decisions and execute better. But we have great trust in our players, and we will always try to do that.”
3) Maryland flexes muscles on faceoffs. Navy freshman Brady Dove had outdueled Johns Hopkins junior Drew Kennedy and Boston University freshman Sam Talkow en route to ranking 15th nationally with a 58.5 percentage and 21st with 6.2 ground balls per game. But Dove met his match in Terps junior Charlie Raffa, as Dove won just 26.3 percent (five of 19) and collected just three ground balls. Raffa won 76.2 percent (16 of 21) and scooped up a game-high 11 ground balls and opened the third quarter with a faceoff win and a goal.
“Charlie, a lot of times, has given us transition, but I think the ay teams have defended Charlie has prevented Charlie from getting pure transition going orward,” Tillman said. “That’s been something we’ve had to deal with. With Charlie, we have no problem with him pushing. It’s just making good decisions on those breaks.”