The Maryland lacrosse team has had a terrific season in 2017 and was awarded the top overall seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Despite all that success, the Terrapins’ path to a national championship isn’t going to be an easy one.
Maryland begins their NCAA Tournament run with the winner of the play-in game between Bryant and Monmouth. Bryant went 10-7 (4-2 NEC) during the regular season and defeated Hobart 5-4 in the Northeast Conference’s tournament final.
Monmouth accumulated a 14-3 (6-0 MAAC) this year and beat Marist in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference championship game.
Both teams average 10.0 goals-per-game or less, which ranks out of the top 35 in the country. Regardless of who wins Wednesday’s contest, Maryland should be able to roll past either team due to their lethal offensive attack.
The Terps hold a 2-0 all-time record against Bryant and beat the Bulldogs in the 2014 quarterfinals by a 16-8 margin. Maryland has never faced Monmouth.
Assuming that Maryland defeats Bryant or Monmouth, the next matchup could be the most difficult one they’ll face in the entire tournament.
The Terps will face the winner of No. 8 seed Albany and unseeded North Carolina. The Tar Heels topped the Terps in the 2016 national title game in overtime by a 14-13 decision.
Albany owns the top scoring offense in the nation as they put up 15.8 goals-per-game. The Great Danes are led by Connor Fields, who is the likely frontrunner for the Tewaaraton Award.
Fields has the second-most goals in the country (51), but leads the nation with 108 total points. He’s as crafty a goal scorer as you’ll find and is just as talented distributing the ball.
On the other hand, North Carolina has faced a ton of adversity late in the season. The Tar Heels entered the ACC Tournament with a 6-7 record and had to win the whole thing in order to make it into the field of 16 teams.
North Carolina did lose star midfielder Steve Pontrello from last year’s national championship team. However, the bulk of last year’s group is still in Chapel Hill with attackmen Chris Cloutier and Luke Goldstock leading the way.
Maryland did beat both Albany and North Carolina this season.
On March 25, Maryland defeated North Carolina 11-8 behind a five-point outing from attackman Matt Rambo. On April 12, the Terps defeated the Great Danes in a narrow 12-11 affair and were led by a three-goal outing from midfielder Tim Rotanz.
Albany took Maryland to the brink and had a shot to tie the game at the buzzer. Fields and Rambo could be a sensational matchup to watch, but it’s one that Terp fans may wish to avoid.
If Maryland gets past Albany or North Carolina, the other two seeded teams on their side of the bracket are No. 4 Notre Dane and No. 5 Denver.
The Terps haven’t faced the Pioneers, but were handed one of their three losses courtesy of the Fighting Irish. Notre Dame shut down Maryland’s star-studded offensive attack in a 5-4 defensive struggle.
Maryland was outshot 31-19 and turned the ball over on 20 occasions throughout the afternoon. The attack trio of Colin Heacock, Dylan Maltz, and Rambo combined for just four points.
Notre Dame was easily the most daunting challenge that Maryland has faced all year.
The Irish open up against Marquette and would face the winner of Denver/Air Force if they’re victorious against the Golden Eagles. Denver beat Maryland 10-5 in the 2015 national title game.
Maryland definitely doesn’t have an easy road to Championship Weekend. They’ll most likely have to beat Denver or Notre Dame to get to Memorial Day.
The one thing that the Terps do have on their side is their lethal scoring offense. Maryland averages 12.5 goals-per-game and has excelled in one-goal games as they’ve won four such contests this season.
Maryland hasn’t won a national title since 1975 and the road to another one won’t be easy. However, this isn’t the winningest class in the history of the program for nothing.