There are no conference ramifications for Tuesday’s game at 7 p.m. between No. 5 Maryland and No. 7 Navy at Maryland Stadium in College Park, but that doesn’t lessen the importance of this contest for two programs enjoying lengthy winning streaks.
“The fact that they’re doing so well is even that much more important,” he said Monday. “When you’re getting to May, you’re playing good teams. It kind of shows you, ‘All right, these are the types of teams that in April and May you’re going to play,’ and it’s a barometer. This is a pretty good measuring stick to where we are, especially with what they’ve done so far this year.”
The Midshipmen (9-2) are riding a seven-game wave, but a win against Maryland might be enough to earn an at-large bid to the NCAA postseason.
“They’re about as talented a team as there is in the country,” coach Rick Sowell said Monday. “So we know we’re going to have our hands full. But it’s an opportunity for us to go and compete, and maybe if we play well enough, the outcome will work in our favor. That would be a big win for us.”
Navy is coming off a thrilling 11-10 overtime decision at No. 20 Army, and it will be interesting to see if the players are emotionally spent after that victory over the program’s archrival. But Sowell is banking on some momentum from Saturday’s win.
“I think there’s going to be carryover,” he said. “I think our guys are excited coming off the emotional win against Army. These guys when they come here, they know how important that game is. But we’ve been winning games. We’ve won seven games in a row, and while this one may have been a little bigger than those other six, winning is winning, and we want to continue it. We’ll be ready to play tomorrow.”
Maryland has won the last six meetings between the two sides, but Tillman said the team is fully aware of the folly of letting its guard down after No. 4 Yale avenged a loss to the Terps in last year’s NCAA tournament first round with an 8-5 victory on Feb. 27.
“The teachable moment there was, ‘Hey, guys, that’s what you’re going to get every game. Last year’s team isn’t here any more, but a lot of people are going to look at you based on last year and their experience,’” he said. “Certainly you’ve got to be ready for that, and you’ve got to practice really hard knowing that teams are like, ‘Hey, that team beat us last year.’ As a coach, you realize that team is gone, but it’s still the program, it’s still that university, and I think all of us are competitive. So when you’re a guy and you’re like, ‘Hey, we haven’t beaten them yet,’ there’s a little bit of extra motivation to get these guys this year.”