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Long-stick midfielders headline game within the Loyola-Maryland game

Several key matchups figure to loom large in Saturday’s tilt between No. 1 Loyola and No. 3 Maryland, but one of the more intriguing individual clashes pits two of the best long-stick midfielders in the country.

Senior Scott Ratliff for the Greyhounds (2-0) and senior Jesse Bernhardt for the Terps (2-0) are renowned for their relentless pressure on defense and their willingness to turn defense into offense. Bernhardt said he’s looking forward to seeing his counterpart on the field, but he also recognizes that their competition will pale in comparison to the final outcome.

“I guess we could end up having our own matchup on the field, but it’s bigger than me and him,” he said Wednesday afternoon. “From what I’ve seen on film, he’s obviously a very good player, and credit is deserved where it’s due. But it’s all about the team. It’s not me versus Ratliff.”

Bernhardt has recorded one goal, six ground balls and one caused turnover as Maryland has surrendered just 10 goals to both Mount St. Mary’s and Hartford. Ratliff has compiled the one goal, 10 ground balls and two caused turnovers in wins against Delaware and Towson.

Bernhardt – who posted three goals, three assists, 60 ground balls and 33 caused turnovers in 2012 – was named a preseason first-team All American. Ratliff – who registered 12 goals, seven assists, 88 ground balls and 37 caused turnovers last season – was placed on the second team.

Ratliff said in the preseason that Bernhardt’s higher status would serve as motivation for the upcoming year.

“Although I’m honored and humbled by even being mentioned or receiving these awards, anytime I hear a name put ahead of mine, it tends to get under my skin and motivate me,” Ratliff said. “That’s what I said on [Major League Lacrosse] draft day [when he was chosen with the ninth overall pick]. When people asked me, ‘Are you excited about the draft?,’ honestly, I was going to be more pissed off about all the kids that got taken in front of me. That’s always the way I’ve kind of viewed it. But he’s an incredible player, an incredible athlete. So be mentioned with him as one of the best is really humbling to me.”

Taking a similar page, Bernhardt sounded as if he has no intention of giving away his title that easily.

“I’m very competitive as well,” he said. “So no matter who it is, there’s a challenge to get better. Knowing that he’s up there, it does add a little more edge to the game.”

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