Foxborough, Mass. — Maryland enjoys a 7-2 record in this series including an 8-5 win in the first round of the 2003 NCAA Division I tournament, but Ohio State has won two of the past four meetings. This will mark the Buckeyes' first appearance in the championship final. The Terps will play in their third consecutive title game, fifth in the past seven years and 14th overall.
Ohio State (16-4) will try to be the first No. 3 seed to capture the NCAA crown since Syracuse in 2008. The Buckeyes rallied from an 8-3 deficit in the third quarter to overtake unseeded Towson for an 11-10 decision in Saturday's semifinal. Freshman attackman Tre Leclaire paced the offense with three goals and one assist and has 48 goals, tied for the fourth most in a single season in program history.
Maryland (15-3) is 1-3 in the championship final as a No. 1 seed, with three straight losses to Johns Hopkins in 1974, Cornell in 1976 and North Carolina in 2016. The Terps outlasted No. 5 seed Denver, 9-8, in Saturday's semifinal. Junior midfielder Connor Kelly scored a game-high three goals and has 45 this season, the most for a midfielder in school history.
Here are a few factors that could affect the outcome at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., on Monday at 1 p.m.
1) Ohio State's attack vs. Maryland's close defense. A Buckeyes offense that has scored 11.6 goals per game is powered by the attack of senior Eric Fannell (36 goals, 30 assists), Leclaire (48 G, 15 A) and sophomore Jack Jasinski (16 G, 11 A). Fannell and Leclaire have had mixed results against the Terps. Fannell scored five goals in Ohio State's 11-10 overtime win April 22, but Leclaire was shut out. In Maryland's 10-9 decision May 6, Leclaire had three goals and one assist, but Fannell was limited to two goals. The Terps gave up only three goals and one assist to Denver's starting attack, but senior defenseman Tim Muller acknowledged that the Buckeyes' unit presents a different challenge.
"Yeah, they're definitely a different dynamic than the Denver team," said Muller, recipient of the William C. Schmeisser Award given to the nation's outstanding defensive player. "Denver was maybe a little bit smaller [with] quicker guys. But Ohio State, they've got two big guys in [Nos.] 14 [Leclaire] and 20 [Fannell]. It doesn't really change what we do though. We're just going to play our fundamental Maryland defense, and hopefully everything will work out for us."
2) Ohio State's Ben Randall vs. Maryland's Matt Rambo. Randall, the junior defenseman who became the first first-team All-American selection in Buckeyes history, figures to get matched up against Rambo, the Tewaaraton Award finalist and winner of the Lt. Raymond J. Enners Award given to Division I's Outstanding Player. Rambo, a senior attackman, has four goals and four assists against Ohio State, but was held to one goal and one assist by Denver sophomore defenseman Dylan Gaines. Ohio State coach Nick Myers said Rambo is most dangerous when the Terps are in transition.
"The first key to containing [No.] 1 is not allowing him to be in those unsettled, early offense areas where he's very good," Myers said. "He's also excellent in the back end of possession. I feel like he's a guy that you can get the ball to him and create a little bit of offense. We're going to have to defend him with seven, which we talk about, and that means sending help when we need to and supporting him."
3) Ohio State's Jake Withers vs. Maryland's Austin Henningsen and Jon Garino Jr. Withers, the senior faceoff specialist, was instrumental in the Buckeyes' first meeting, winning 18 of 25 draws and collecting 10 ground balls. In the second game, he claimed 13 of 23 faceoffs with 10 loose balls. Henningsen, a sophomore, and Garino, a senior, have had their ups and downs, but they have held their own against Albany freshman T.D. Ierlan (a combined 15 of 27 and 10 ground balls) and Denver junior Trevor Baptiste (10 of 21 and two loose balls). Terps coach John Tillman quipped that his faceoff unit – which includes junior Will Bonaparte and freshman Alex Giovinco – has faced a "murderers' row" of opponents.
"So it's been challenging," he said. "I think our group collectively has done a good job of preparing all year. I don't think our numbers are awesome, but they've done enough to help us win. All four of those guys work incredibly hard all week long, and then [volunteer assistant coach] Chris Mattes has done a great job kind of getting us prepared. I think much like yesterday, beyond those four guys, the wing play is going to be critical. And even the 10-on-10s, I think, are going to be important."