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Virginia at Maryland lacrosse: Three things to watch

No. 7 Terps lead series, 46-44, but No. 8 Cavaliers have won eight of last 10 meetings

By Edward Lee, The Baltimore Sun

10:00 AM EDT, March 30, 2014

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Maryland and Virginia will clash Sunday for the 91st time — the Terps have played only Johns Hopkins (103 games) more all time  in their final meeting as Atlantic Coast Conference rivals. Maryland has a slight 46-44 edge, but the Cavaliers have won eight of the past 10 games.

No. 8 Virginia (8-2 overall, 1-1) rebounded from back-to-back losses to Cornell and conference foe Notre Dame with victories over Johns Hopkins and VMI. A defense that has surrendered 10.8 goals per game is somewhat suspect, but senior long-stick midfielder Joseph Lisicky (16 caused turnovers), senior defenseman Scott McWilliams (13) and sophomore defenseman Tanner Scales (13) have helped bring a level of aggressiveness to the unit.

No. 7 Maryland (7-1, 2-1) opened the season with seven straight victories, but dropped an 11-8 decision to North Carolina on Saturday and subsequently lost its No. 1 ranking. An offense that averages 12.5 goals has four players with at least 10 goals each this season. Two freshmen, Matt Rambo (17 goals) and midfielder Connor Cannizzaro (13), are among them.

Here are a few factors that could play a role in the outcome at Byrd Stadium in College Park at 12 p.m. Sunday.

1) Virginia’s offense vs. Maryland’s defense. The Cavaliers have averaged 13.8 goals per game thanks to a pair of attackmen. Senior Mark Cockerton has 32 goals and 11 assists, and sophomore James Pannell has 29 goals and five assists. Junior attackman Owen Van Arsdale (8, 22) and sophomore midfielder Ryan Tucker (16, 4) also pose a risk to defenses, but Terps coach John Tillman acknowledged that Maryland is worried about Cockerton and Pannell.  

“Those guys are very dangerous guys,” Tillman said. “Those guys are guys that we’re going to have to play really good seven-on-seven defense. We’re going to have to be really disciplined with our slides and our on-ball positioning. We’re going to have to do a really good job with our angle play. They create problems. When you’re scoring close to 14 goals a game, you’re doing something right. So we’re going to have to do a really good job this week with our fundamentals individually, but also kind of our principles defensively, making sure that we’re helping each other when we need help and doing a good job of staying in front of their guys as best as possible.”

2) Virginia’s man-up offense vs. Maryland’s man-down defense. The Cavaliers’ success on offense has been buoyed by a man-up unit that has converted 51.9 percent (14 of 27) of its opportunities. That may not bode well for the Terps, who have allowed opponents to score on 47.6 percent (10 of 21) of their extra-man chances.

“Virginia has such skilled players and they can shoot the ball very, very well from the perimeter,” Tillman said. “So that does stretch you. They have a great scheme. They understand what they’re doing. [Associate head] coach [Marc] Van Arsdale does a great job of putting the right guys in the right spots, and they understand their looks really well. We want to make sure that we’re disciplined defensively so that we’re not giving them a lot of opportunities.”

3) Virginia’s Mick Parks vs. Maryland’s Charlie Raffa. The Terps would seem to have a sizable advantage on faceoffs, as junior Charlie Raffa has won 61.5 percent (83 of 135) of his draws and scooped up 55 ground balls. The Cavaliers’ top specialist is junior Mick Parks, who has won 52.3 percent (92 of 176) and collected 39 ground balls. But Tillman knows that sometimes matchups don’t follow the numbers.

“We really like Charlie and all of our faceoff guys,” he said. Associate head coach Ryan "Moran does a good job with those guys, and our wing play has been pretty good. But I think Parks is very good. The funny thing about faceoffs is, you go into it and you think you might have an advantage, and then you come out of it and, all of a sudden, you felt like where you had an advantage, you really didn’t. Or it boils down to the wing play, and sometimes wing play can be really critical. They have really effective wings.”