Yale won the first meeting in 1925. Since then, however, the series has been dominated by Maryland, which has captured the last nine contests – including the last five in College Park.
The No. 14 Bulldogs (8-3) are enjoying a five-game winning streak during which they’ve won two in overtime and one by two goals. Senior attackman Kirby Zdrill entered the week leading Division I in shooting percentage (61.8 percent) and is third on the team in goals (22).
The No. 6 Terps (8-2) have cooled off since beginning the season with six consecutive wins, splitting their last four contests. Four players – attackmen Kevin Cooper and Owen Blye and midfielders John Haus and Mike Chanenchuk – have registered 20 points each this season.
Here are a few factors that could play a role in the outcome at Byrd Stadium in College Park on Saturday.
1) Solving Yale’s defense. Maryland’s struggles on offense have been documented, but Cooper and Haus said they are confident that the unit will get back on track. The team will have to do that against the Bulldogs, who rank eighth nationally in defense after allowing just 7.9 goals per game so far. Prior to Stony Brook scoring 10 goals in Yale’s one-goal overtime decision last Monday, the last opponent to reach double digits against the Bulldogs was No. 12 Princeton on March 22. Terps coach John Tillman was impressed with Yale’s defensive play. “They’re very good defensively from what we’ve seen in the last few weeks,” he said. “Their defense has gone six, six, five, eight and then 10 last week. So we’re going to have our hands full. We’re going to have to play as well as we’ve played all season to try to get a win.”
2) Getting back to the basics. Maryland’s possessions on offense in last Saturday’s 7-4 loss to No. 13 Johns Hopkins frequently ended with a wayward shot and the ball going to the Blue Jays. Senior midfielder John Haus pointed out that the offense is enjoying its best success when the players are swinging the ball around and forcing the defense to move, which opens opportunities for breakdowns and off-ball chances. “Sometimes the ball dies in people’s sticks just a little bit, and for us to get where we want to go, that stick work has got to pick up,” Haus said. “We’ve got to be able to dodge someone and make that pass to the next guy. And it’s not just making the pass, but making the pass to someone right in the box so that he can catch it and move it to the next guy and we can get better opportunities that way.”
3) Understanding what’s at stake. The Terps are trying to win every game left on their schedule to compete for the No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. Yale, the 2012 Ivy League tournament champion, is in second place behind No. 7 Cornell, but could use a victory over Maryland to enhance the team’s tournament profile. ESPN analyst Quint Kessenich said he expects the Bulldogs to be extremely motivated on Saturday. “They’re not lighting it up, but they’ve got some intangibles,” the former Johns Hopkins All-American goalkeeper said. “They came from behind against Brown, and Maryland should know that Yale is not going to phone it in. Yale is capable of strong defense, and they’ve got nothing to lose here. They’re sitting on a situation where the Ivy League tournament is probably their ticket, but a win over Maryland would go a long way in terms of their at-large resume. So this is kind of a freebie, and at 8-3, they’ll play loose and be a danger.”