The two sides have clashed only two times with Maryland winning 13-6 in 2009 and 16-8 in 2014 against Bryant. The Bulldogs are 3-3 in the NCAA tournament with a memorable run to the quarterfinals in 2014 that included an upset of No. 2 seed Syracuse in the Carrier Dome. The Terps are 56-37 in the playoffs and have only lost once in the first round in the past nine years.
Bryant (11-7), the Northeast Conference tournament champion for the fifth time in six seasons, defeated Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference titlist Monmouth, 10-7, in a play-in game Wednesday night. Although the offense ranks only 37th in Division I in scoring at 10.1 goals per game, it is paced by All-Northeast Conference first-team choice Tucker James. The senior attackman is tied for 26th in the country in average points at 3.7 and has scored at least 50 points in each of his four campaigns to total 222.
Maryland (12-3), the Big Ten tournament champion for the second year in a row, is the top seed in the NCAA postseason for a second consecutive season. A defense that is tied for 16th in the nation with just 8.9 goals per game allowed has been led by All-Big Ten first-team selection Tim Muller. The senior defenseman ranks second on the team in caused turnovers (14) and sixth in ground balls (27) and has registered three goals and one assist.
Here are a few factors that could play a role in the outcome at Maryland Stadium in College Park on Sunday at 2:30 p.m.
1) Maryland's attack. On Thursday, Matt Rambo was named one of five finalists for the Tewaaraton Award, college lacrosse's version of the Heisman Trophy. But the senior attackman and fellow classmates and linemates Colin Heacock (Boys' Latin) and Dylan Maltz have been unusually quiet in the Terps' last two games. The trio combined for one goal and two assists in an 8-6 win against Penn State on May 4 and two goals and three assists in a 10-9 decision over Ohio State two days later. But Maryland coach John Tillman has learned long ago to trust in a group that has been one of the top attacks in the country all spring.
"We feel like we have capable guys," he said. "So if [defenses] are showing a little more attention to Matt, maybe that opens up other things. Maybe if they're showing more attention to the midfield, maybe that can open up things. And playing the way we want to play, pushing the ball, getting up and down in transition, we're hoping that we get some scoring from our defense. … I like the fact that our kids just don't care. They don't care who scores. They just want to win."
2) Maryland's faceoffs. The Terps' 9-for-18 showing on draws against Penn State snapped a four-game skid in which they won less than 50 percent, but they still have finished under the 50 percent mark in five of their last six contests. Sophomore Austin Henningsen, the primary faceoff specialist, owns a 47.8 percent mark (111-for-232) with 41 ground balls. And Bryant junior Kenny Massa ranks 13th in the nation with a 59.2 percentage (210-for-355) and 15th in ground balls per game (6.4).
"Our faceoffs and wing play has got to get better although I thought an underlying theme in that game [against Ohio State] was the fourth quarter when I thought Austin really fought and Matt Neufeldt and Brice Young and Nick Brozowski and Timmy Muller did a really good job with our two-pole [platoon] in the fourth quarter," Tillman said. "And that was the one quarter where we get more possessions off the faceoff X than they did."
3) Maryland's experience. Bryant has returned for its fourth NCAA tournament in the past five years and advanced to those 2014 quarterfinals. But the Terps are making their 15th, and this season has been littered with minefields. They have won four one-goal decisions and lost all three games by a total of three goals. So Maryland should be seasoned enough to overcome any situation that develops on Sunday.
"You hope you're battle-tested for scenarios and situations," Tillman said. "If you come out flat on Sunday and you're down 3-0, you can reflect back on some of those games like Albany where we were down 3-0 and then we bounced back and were able to claw our way back. So hopefully, we've been in enough tough scenarios where we've either had to score late to come back or we've been up and had to hold off another team."