The Teams: Maryland Terrapins (13-3) vs. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (11-5)
The Time: 3:30 p.m.
The Location: M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore, Md.
The Backstory: After Maryland needed last second heroics from midfielder Mike Chanenchuk to beat Cornell in the first round, Notre Dame had a similar outing as they needed a massive comeback and a Matt Kavanagh overtime game-winner to knock off the Thompson trio and Albany in the quarterfinals last weekend.
It seems only fitting that the two squads will face off for a third time in the national semifinals. It was certainly a tale of two very different games when Maryland and Notre Dame matched up the first two times. In the first meeting in South Bend, the Terps jumped out to an 4-1 lead and didn’t look back as they upended the Fighting Irish 12-8. That was the moment where many suggested that Notre Dame could miss the NCAA tournament.
Just six days later in the semifinals of the ACC tournament at PPL Park, the Irish made a statement as they upended the Terps 6-5 in comeback fashion with attackman Matt Kavanagh scoring the game-winning goal in transition with just 6.5 seconds left in the game. Notre Dame ended up beating Syracuse 15-14 in the ACC championship game to secure their automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.
Keys/Storylines To Watch:
1.) Charlie Raffa: Raffa is the absolute number-one x-factor in Saturday’s game. The Terps face-off king has won 81 percent of Maryland’s draws at the X against the Irish and that will need to continue. It’ll be interesting to see how Raffa fares this weekend as he has been battling leg injuries. Knowing the warrior that Raffa is, he’ll be at the top of his game for potentially the two biggest games of Maryland’s season.
2.) Importance of ground balls: Maryland had been extremely impressive in the ground ball department lately, especially late in the Cornell game when Chanenchuk kept the final possession alive and ended up netting the game-winner. In the prior two games against Irish, the Terps had a 65-35 advantage in that department. If Maryland can secure their fair share of balls on the carpet, they could be playing for a national title on Memorial Day.
3.) Niko Amato or Conor Kelly?: This is the match-up that should be getting a ton of hype. Amato is fresh off winning the Kelly Award, which honors the top goalie in collegiate lacrosse. Amato ranks in the top eight in both goals-against-average (7.23 and save percentage (.566). On the other side, Kelly has played his best lacrosse of the season over the course of the last month. After being benched earlier in the season, Irish coach Kevin Corrigan gave him the start in the first game against the Terps and hasn’t looked back. Whichever goalie comes up with the key saves in crunch time will lead his team to the national title game.