The Maryland lacrosse team will face one of the most lethal squads in the NCAA Tournament when they go up against Albany on Sunday.
Despite the number of offensive playmakers that the Great Danes possess, their biggest strength is their ability to win face-offs.
This area is where Maryland and Albany truly differ. The Great Danes have the second-best face-off specialist in the country in freshman TD Ierlan.
Ierlan is winning 72.5 percent of his face-offs, which only trails Denver’s Trevor Baptiste. Baptiste is a finalist for the Tewaaraton Award, so needless to say, Ierlan is one of the best that college lacrosse has to offer.
His incredible strength allows him to really get into the ground and trap the ball in his stick. On the opening face-off of last week’s win over North Carolina, Ierlan used his leverage to win the face-off and forced a flag after being tripped up.
It’s often that you see Ierlan fall to the turf immediately following a face-off. Opposing teams are physical when it comes to trying to beat him out for the possession.
On the contrary, Maryland’s Austin Henningsen ranks 49th in the country as he’s winning face-offs at just a 48.4 percent clip. While he’s played considerably less, Jon Garino Jr. has won 59-of-102 battles at the “X.” which is good for 57.8 percent.
Henningsen has struggled at times, but he had a strong performance against Bryant last weekend. The New York native won 11 of his 20 face-offs and scooped up a team-high five ground balls.
One of Henningsen’s biggest attributes is his ability to pry the ball loose on the face-off. Following that, he’s often able to pop the ball in the air to himself, so he can start the rush.
Henningsen also is a very effective goal scorer when he gets the opportunity. He has six goals on the season while Ierlan has just four.
While that’s not a huge disparity, Henningsen is a much more accurate shooter at 66.7 percent. Ierlan is shooting just 25.0 percent on the season.
If Henningsen wins the face-off clean and gets the ball in his possession, he can hit the mark when the shot is there.
Henningsen and Ierlan are two very talented face-off specialists. If Maryland is going to win this game, it’s all going to come down to if Henningsen can make the most of his opportunities and get the offense started.
If Henningsen builds off of his performance against Bryant, the Terrapins could find themselves playing on Memorial Day weekend for the third consecutive year.