The idea of trying to contain Albany superstar Connor Fields, the Division I leader in assists (61) and points (113) and the leading candidate to take home the Tewaaraton Award given to college lacrosse's top player, might seem daunting to some defensemen.
But Maryland's Tim Muller has a different take on his impending matchup with Fields when the top-seeded Terps (13-3) meet the No. 8 seed Great Danes (15-2) in an NCAA tournament quarterfinal at Delaware Stadium in Newark on Sunday at 2:30 p.m.
"This is something you look forward to," the senior defenseman said Wednesday. "He's one of the best attackmen in the country. So just going out there as a competitor, you want to play your best, and I think that's something you will see not only out of me, but also out of everyone on our defense."
The 6-foot-1, 215-pound Muller is familiar with the 5-11, 160-pound Fields after the pair clashed in a regular-season meeting April 12. Fields got the better of the individual battle as he finished with three goals and five assists. But he took 14 shots to complete his hat trick, and Muller and his Maryland teammates walked away with a 12-11 win.
Muller said his strategy for Sunday's game will mirror his approach to that first contest.
"Just be fundamental, not to go out of my way to take the ball away," he said. "He's obviously a great player, so that's not really going to happen. I just want to be fundamental and do what we do here, which is no different than any other game."
Muller is not the only Terp who knows Fields. Junior midfielder Adam DiMillo played with Fields at Bishop Timon-St. Jude High School in Buffalo, and the coaching staff watched Fields during the recruiting process.
"He's a handful," coach John Tillman said Tuesday. "Obviously, he had a good game the first time against us. So we have to look at options and figure out what we want to do, but not try to get too far away from what we do and what works well for us. But you also realize that there's a lot that goes through him. So we've got to look at how we handle the next couple of days and what we feel comfortable with. That will dictate what we decide to do on Sunday. Coach [Kevin] Conry [the team's defensive coordinator/associate head coach] always does a great job with our defense."
While Muller will likely get the primary task of shadowing Fields, he pointed out that he will be aided by his teammates on defense. And Muller said he would not mind if Fields had another eyebrow-raising performance as long as Maryland got the victory to advance to the NCAA tournament semifinals for the fourth consecutive season and sixth in the past seven years.
"If he has eight points again and we win, that's something I'll take because what it all comes down is if we won," Muller said.