Maryland’s performance against Notre Dame this past Saturday netted the Terps the ACC regular season title and the top seed in this weekend’s conference tournament. With the Fighting Irish being the opponent once again in the semifinals, I thought Saturday’s contest was worth a second viewing. Below are some key aspects of the game that played into the overall outcome. I’ll have a game preview of Friday evening’s matchup at PPL Park later in the week.
- Success at the “X”: One of Maryland’s biggest strength lies at the face-off circle. Midfielder Charlie Raffa won a season best 20-of-24 faceoffs just a week after winning 15-of-21 against Johns Hopkins. Raffa’s dominance was evident from the opening whistle on Saturday afternoon. The fact that Notre Dame was only able to win four face-offs in a game with this many goals speaks volumes of Raffa’s importance for the Terrapins. Raffa was rewarded for his efforts with being named the ACC’s Defensive Player of the Week.
- Patience: From the opening whistle against Johns Hopkins the week prior, Maryland seemed to be forcing things offensively. The Terps took the first available shot and even forced ones that weren’t there. That led to an early deficit and became one that ultimately they couldn’t recover from. It was a complete flip of the script against the Fighting Irish. Maryland scored on their opening two possessions thanks to precise passing and being extremely patient. This was especially evident on Maryland’s second goal in which freshman Connor Cannizzaro had a short stick defender all over him and still remained calm. He felt the pressure of the double team and was able to find a wide open Mike Chanenchuk in the paint and in turn, Chanenchuk potted a goal on a beautifully timed high shot. The Terps also used the area behind the net to their advantage. In the second half, freshman Matt Rambo was able to do just that. Rambo had just a single defender on him, who was a short stick, and was able to duck in front for the easy tally. Maryland was just waiting for their opportunity to take a high percentage shot, no matter where they were on the field.
- Emergence of Henry West: When you think of Maryland’s offensive firepower, the likes of Chanenchuk and the freshmen duo of Cannizzaro and Rambo come to mind. However, West is showing that he has a great deal of talent to bring to the Maryland offensive attack. The former Under Armour High School All-American only saw action in nine games as a freshman at Cornell. The change of scenery has done wonders for West, who has 21 points (14 goals & 7 assists) entering the ACC tournament. In Saturday’s game, West found himself with the ball and was covered by a single defender that was not giving him much room to breathe. The Connecticut native spun away from the defender and found the back of the cage on a perfectly-timed jump shot. “Henry West is slowly but surely becoming one of the surprise players in all of college lacrosse,” ESPNU lacrosse analyst Paul Carcaterra said. “He is stepping up bigtime. We saw him against Virginia when he had three goals and two assists. I love this kid’s confidence. He feels the pressure and the rollback too. Such an outside shooter.”
- Matt Kavanagh creates so many match-up problems: Notre Dame’s star player is an absolute handful on the offensive end. The Terps had to double Kavanagh early in many possessions and a prime example is the Irish’s opening possession. Kavanagh had the ball behind the cage and remained patient, despite two defenders in his general area. Even though Conor Doyle’s goal didn’t occur right after the double team, Maryland was still scrambling to get back to their natural positions and ultimately weren’t set when Doyle scored. Kavanagh is not afraid to hold the ball around the net and wait for a mismatch to develop, where he can pick apart any team.
- Maryland goes as far as Mike Chanenchuk takes them: In years past, it’s been players like Joe Cummings, Owen Blye, and the Bernhardt brothers leading the charge for the Terps. With this being his senior year, it’s Chanenchuk’s turn to lead the charge. As it’s been all season, Chanenchuk showed how talented of a player he is. On nearly every possession, the offense runs through Chanenchuk and his teammates are always looking to find him. His first goal, courtesy of a phenomenal pass from Cannizzaro, was a thing of beauty. The Princeton transfer has an absolute cannon and is capable of scoring from anywhere on the field. Chanenchuk’s hat trick on Saturday proved to be the difference.