Attackman Matt Rambo has been one of several key offensive cogs for Maryland, and will need to come up big on Saturday if the Terrapins want some revenge gainst Yale. (Mandatory Credit: Zach Babo/Inside Lacrosse)
The Teams: No. 6 Maryland Terrapins (12-3) vs. Yale Bulldogs (11-4)
The Time: Saturday, 2:30 p.m.
The Location: Capital One Field at Byrd Stadium
The Backstory: The Maryland men’s lacrosse team certainly didn’t end the season playing their best lacrosse of the season. After winning 11 consecutive games dating back to the game against Yale on Feb. 21, the Terps dropped their final two contests of the season against Big Ten foes Johns Hopkins and Ohio State. Maryland lost battles at the face-off circle (only won 27 of 54 draws) and also lost out on the majority of the ground balls (opponents held 57-50 advantage).
Despite the struggles, Maryland is still one of the stronger teams in this year’s NCAA tournament. The Terps are a team that is extremely methodical on offense and plays stingy defense. To put things into perspective, Maryland has seven players that have double-digit points on the season. Attackman Matt Rambo (32, 12) leads the offensive attack and has been shades above his performance in his freshman campaign. Case and point, in the Rutgers game, Rambo patiently waited for his game-winning shot. As a freshman, we likely would’ve seen him take the first available shot and fire the ball high and wide.
Another intriguing story was fellow attackman Jay Carlson, who was relegated to coming off the bench with the emergence of former Terp and current Denver attackman Connor Cannizzaro. Flip the script to the 2015 season, and Carlson has been one of the biggest positives for Maryland. Carlson has registered 27 goals this season, including some big-time tallies in big-time games. The Cockeysville native netted the game-winning goal in overtime to beat Ohio State on the road last month. One of the offensive players to keep an eye on is midfielder Bryan Cole. Cole has registered 11 points in the last three games, including a five-point effort (one goal & four assists) against Johns Hopkins on April 25. Cole is a very talented passer that isn’t afraid to give up the ball in the hopes of getting a higher percentage shot.
Despite defender Goran Murray being ineligible this season, Maryland’s defense has been phenomenal. Even with the struggles late in the season, the Terps still own the No. 1 ranked defense in the country as they’re only allowing 6.60 goals-per-game. Casey Ikeda is one of the most dominant defenders in all of collegiate lacrosse, which was evident in earning the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year Award. Ikeda has forced 14 turnovers on the seasons, which ranks second on the team to long-stick midfuelder Matt Neufeldt.
Yale is an offensive onslot as Maryland found out in the first meeting. The Bulldogs average 11.67 goals-per-game and are led by star attackman Conrad Oberbeck. Oberbeck is the type of player that has an absolute cannon of a shot and can score from just about anywhere on the field. In the earlier meeting, Oberbeck netted the first two goals that allowed Yale to overcome an early 2-0 deficit, and went on to have a five-point afternoon. Fellow attackman Jeff Cimbalista is just as talented as Oberbeck. Cimbalista is a deadly accurate shooter, which is evident in his 45.5 percent shot percentage on the season (highest on the team among regulars). He scored a pair of goals in the first meeting, including the final Yale tally that put the game out of reach at 10-6.
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While the Terps own the top defense in college lacrosse, the Bulldogs aren’t too shabby either. Yale only allows 8.13 goals-per-game, which is good for 10th in the nation. Defender Michael Quinn leads the way as he was named to the All-Ivy League First Team last month. Quinn has caused 18 turnovers and scooped up 34 ground balls on the season for the Bulldogs.
Keys/Storylines To Watch:
1.) Battle at the “X” – Maryland and Yale are nearly identical in terms of winning face-offs. The Terps are winning 52.8 percent of their draws while the Bulldogs are winning 52.3 percent. In the first meeting, it wasn’t even close as Yale 13 of the 18 battles at the “X,” not to mention that the Terps committed four face-off violations. Charlie Raffa was 4-of-7 on draws while Jon Garino was 1-of-10.
2.) Gain an early advantage – While it doesn’t always mean victory, getting an early lead is essential for Maryland. As we saw in the first matchup, the Terps jumped out to an early first quarter lead, but still ended up being outscored 4-2 in the quarter. Then in the fourth quarter, Yale really made their mark. This is as talented an offense as Maryland has faced all season. The first game really seemed to be a learning point as the Terps really clamped down on the defensive end after the early-season loss.
3.) Battle in net – Even with his recent struggles, Kyle Bernlohr still has managed to own the lowest goals-per-game average in the nation at just 6.49 tallies per contest. Bernlohr is also saving 58.9 percent of his shots, which is good for third in the college ranks. With Niko Amato graduating a season ago, goalie was a huge question mark, but Bernlohr has gone above and beyond what many thought he would be at the beginning of the season. While not quite as impressive as Bernlohr, Bulldogs goalie Eric Natale has had a very strong campaign. Natale is only surrendering 8.14 goals-per-game. In the first meeting between the two teams, Natale made eight huge saves. This game could be decided by which goalie makes key saves when he has to, especially given that these are two very talented offenses.
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