Maryland at Loyola: Three things to watch

No. 3 Maryland has had its way in this series, going 19-2 against its in-state rival. But top-ranked Loyola has won two of the last three meetings – the most recent occurring when the Greyhounds beat the Terps, 9-3, in last year’s NCAA tournament final. The reigning national champion is 2-0, but nipped Delaware by just one goal before securing a five-goal victory over Towson Wednesday night. Meanwhile, the Terps (2-0) have outscored Mount St. Mary’s and Hartford by a combined score of 39-10. Here are a few factors that could play a role in the outcome at Ridley Athletic Complex in Baltimore on Saturday.

1) Maryland’s accuracy. The Terps’ prowess on offense has been aided by 97 shots. The unit’s 40.2 conversion rate is staggering, but that percentage could be affected by the presence of Loyola junior goalkeeper Jack Runkel. The 6-foot-3, 225-pound Runkel helped blank Maryland in the second half of last May’s national title game with six of his seven saves, and Terps coach John Tillman is well aware of how much Runkel has benefitted from the presence of Greyhounds coach Charley Toomey, who was a former goalie. “To have your head coach be a former goalie, he’s been very well-tutored as far as little nuances, playing his angles well,” Tillman said of Runkel. “There’s not a lot to shoot at. So you just have to be smart with the shots that you are taking. He’s got quick hands based on what he showed last year. I thought he did a great job against us. When you only score three goals, there’s a lot of reasons, and I think one of those reasons is the guy in goal played really, really well.”

2) Loyola’s short-stick defenders. The Greyhounds boasted one of the best Rope units in the country in long-stick midfielder Scott Ratliff and short-stick defensive midfielders Josh Hawkins and Pat Laconi. Hawkins served a suspension for violating a team policy and did not play against Towson, which took advantage. Six of the Tigers goals were initiated against Loyola’s short sticks. That could be a recipe for disaster against the Terps’ starting midfield of seniors John Haus and Jake Bernhardt and redshirt junior Mike Chanenchuk. “They’re very talented in the midfield,” Toomey said of Maryland. “They run two very strong midfields, and [senior attackman] Owen Blye behind is going to be the quarterback of their offense. They’ve got a terrific team down in College Park. [Wednesday night] gave us a good chance to go out and play a team that does initiate out of the midfield.”

3) Faceoffs. The Greyhounds may have found their faceoff specialist of the future in sophomore Blake Burkhart, who won 16-of-28 draws in the victory over Towson. They will need another spectacular performance from Burkhart against the Terps duo of sophomore Charlie Raffa (18-of-26 for 69.2 percent) and senior Curtis Holmes (12-of-18 for 66.7 percent. But Tillman wasn’t ready to tilt the scale in his team’s favor in the faceoff department. “Game to game, year to year, you’re not really sure how it’s going to go,” he said. “We do have confidence in our faceoff guys, and we do hope that’s an area we can have success. But I know that one of their guys did a really good job against Team USA, and those are some of the best faceoff guys in the world. So they certainly have some guys that are pretty talented as well.”

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