Maryland has dominated this series, posting a 14-3 record. But Cornell has won three of five meetings in the NCAA tournament. The Big Red are 13-7 in the quarterfinal round, but are making their first appearance at this stage since 2013. The Terps are 25-11 in the quarterfinals, including 6-0 under coach John Tillman.
Cornell (13-4), one of only two unseeded teams left in the postseason, has won three straight games and 10 of its past 11. The Big Red rank in the top 10 in the country in several offensive categories, including shooting percentage (first, 40.0 percent), assists (second, 165) and scoring (third, 13.8 goals per game). The attack duo of sophomore Jeff Teat and junior Clarke Petterson are the eighth pair of teammates to top 60 points in the same season.
Maryland (13-3), the No. 1 seed in the tournament, is 7-1 this season when playing outside of College Park. The Terps rank second in the nation in man-up offense (57.1 percent) and sixth in shooting percentage (.352). Senior midfielder Connor Kelly’s 44 goals this spring are tied for 10th on the school’s single-season scoring list.
Here are a few factors that could play a role in the outcome at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis on Sunday at noon.
1) Maryland’s opening. The Terps’ record has overshadowed a troubling trend in which they have trailed after the first quarter in three of their past five games – two of which resulted in losses, to Ohio State on April 22 and Johns Hopkins on May 5. Maryland trailed 3-1 after the first quarter and 6-3 at halftime of Sunday's 14-11 victory over Robert Morris in the first round, but Tillman conceded that slipping into an early hole against an offensive power like Cornell is a potential recipe for disaster.
“We’re just trying to come out of the gates a little faster and just play better in that first five minutes,” he said. “Whether it’s execution, tempo, sense of urgency, communication, we just have not done a great job, and you want to give credit to your opponents. I think some of it had to do with the real good teams that we’ve played, but we feel like we can do a better job regardless of what the other team is doing. If we can do better there, that would be a big help.”
2) Cornell’s Christian Knight. The fifth-year senior goalkeeper ranks seventh in Division I in save percentage (.574) and 10th in saves per game (11.7). Knight, a Baltimore resident and Boys’ Latin graduate, has made 597 career saves for the third-highest total among active goalies. Knight has made 43 stops while surrendering only 21 goals in his past three starts, and Tillman said the onus will be on the Maryland players to find gaps in Knight’s game.
“He does such a good job of reading shooters and anticipating,” Tillman said. “So you just have to do a really good job when you get your opportunity to shoot. Sometimes you can overthink or sometimes you maybe hold the ball too long or sometimes you rush it. He’s a guy that’s seeing really well right now. So if you get your opportunity, you’ve got to can it.”
3) Cornell’s shooting percentage: As mentioned above, the Big Red leads the nation in shooting efficiency. The team is 10-1 when the offense has converted at least 35 percent of its attempts, and three starters — Teat, Petterson and senior midfielder Jordan Dowiak — are each shooting better than 35 percent. Tillman said Maryland’s biggest key to disrupting Cornell’s accuracy is getting on the players’ hands.
“When guys can set their feet and there’s nobody on their hands, they have deadly shooters,” he said. “They have a lot of Canadian guys, a lot of skilled guys, some older guys that have been around. So they have a really good feel for each other.”