Villanova at Maryland: Three things to watch

No. 11 Maryland has won all five meetings in this series, but the Terps haven’t played against No. 9 Villanova since 1998. The Wildcats (4-2) are still seething after getting humbled, 14-8, by No. 18 Princeton this past Tuesday. Maryland (4-1) walloped Marist, 17-4, last Saturday. Here are a few factors that could play a role in the outcome at Byrd Stadium in College Park on Saturday.

1) Solving Villanova’s offense. The Wildcats entered the week tied for ninth in Division I in scoring, averaging 12.2 goals per game thus far. Villanova likes to employ two-man games, run off picks, and emphasize off-ball movement to put pressure on opposing defense to keep up. Terps coach John Tillman recalled a conversation he had with Denver coach Bill Tierney prior to the Pioneers’ game against the Wildcats in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. “[H]e was like, ‘Man, they move like crazy. They never stop moving, they’re cutting,’” Tillman said. “So off the ball, we have to do a great job, but they have some dangerous dodgers like [senior attackman] Kevin Cunningham that force you to do a great job on the ball, too. So they really test you.”

2) Outlasting Villanova’s faceoff tandem. The Wildcats use the duo of sophomore Thomas Croonquist (54-of-94 for 57.4 percent) and senior Nolan Vihlen (20-of-49 for 40.8 percent). Competing against Croonquist and Vihlen could be an exhausting proposition for Maryland junior Curtis Holmes (49-of-90 for 54.4 percent). Tillman said the wing players will have to aid Holmes. “When one guy’s on, they ride that horse, and if one’s not on, the other guy is different and they complement each other pretty well,” he said. “But no only are they getting possessions, but they’re also getting breaks off that. So we’re going to have to do a really good job, and right now, that’s an area that we need to address, and we’re working on addressing it.”

3) Figuring out Villanova quickly. The Wildcats are on the Terps’ schedule for the first time in 14 years, so there’s a good degree of unfamiliarity there. The Maryland players and coaches have spent a good deal of time reviewing game film of Villanova, but junior long-stick midfielder Jesse Bernhardt conceded that the Wildcats might have the element of surprise. “It’s definitely not easy,” he said. “It’s not like the Dukes and North Carolinas who you see year in and year out and have some kind of idea of what this guy does or what they do on a consistent basis. So it’s a little different, a little more of a challenge, but having the whole week gives us a little advantage to prepare the entire seven days for them.”

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