Notre Dame Fighting Irish lacrosse (#12/#17 1-1, 0-0 ACC) host the Maryland Terrapins (#2/#2  5-0, 0-0 B1G) this Sunday at noon in the Loftus Sports Center.  The game will be broadcast on ESPNU.  A forecast for very cold temps moved the game indoors.

The History

This will be the 12th meeting between these two teams.  In recent years this series has been a defensive slugfest.   The Irish lost last year’s match in College Park 10-12, but won the previous five by scores of 5-4 (at ND), 9-4 (Orange County), 11-6 (Baltimore) and 6-5 (Philadelphia).

Last year at Maryland, Terrapin star Conor Kelly utilized the long skip pass over and over again to amass 3 goals and  7 assists.  The Irish were never able to fully adjust to his play.  Ryder Garnsey kept the Irish in the game with 4 goals, with Brian Willets adding 2, but Notre Dame played from behind throughout.

In the previous four games, the Irish held Maryland to 6 goals or less each time.

The Opponent

Maryland has had a decade long run of incredible success in lacrosse with a national championship in 2017 and multiple final four and championship game appearances.  They have been the most consistently good team for as far back as we care to remember.

Coach John Tillman’s team has won their first five games this year and has done a good job keeping each game under control. Among their wins is a 10-9 victory against recent Irish opponent, Richmond. Offensively, they are led by Jared Bernhardt (16g, 7a), Syracuse transfer Logan Wisnauskas  (15g, 12a) and Bubba Fairman (6g, 6a).  Their faceoff unit is a two-player rotation of Shockey and Henningsen, who have combined to win 60% of their draws so far.  In the crease, Danny Dolan has had had a very good year stopping at a 58% clip.

Three Questions

Viewing this game we will be focused on these issues:

  1. Shot clock: Last year, under the old rules, the Irish defense forced a shot clock on Maryland an incredible 9 times.  A similar defensive performance under the new rules has the potential of completely extinguishing the Terrapins’ offense.  Maryland’s playbook for the Irish for the past five years was to drag out possessions until the defensive rotation started to wear down.  This strategy will not be possible under the new rules.  If the Irish maintain ball pressure and the slide rotation stays organized, the defense may have themselves a very good day.
  2. Finishing:  The Irish have been getting good looks on the dodge, on fast breaks, and using 2-man concepts to get some inside looks.  Against Detroit they finished these opportunities, against Richmond they did not.  The Irish have historically shot very well indoors, so the hope is that the team we saw against Detroit will be the one that shows up.  Another day of 18% efficiency as was witnessed in Richmond would not be welcome.
  3. Depth:  The Irish coaching staff has historically succumbed to the temptation of shortening the bench against teams like Maryland who control tempo well.  Our sincere hope is that they resist this urge and utilize their super-athletic bench to ride aggressively and push the pace on offense.  This defense has proven itself trustworthy against Maryland ball control over and over again.  They can be trusted to handle the occasional short rest.  It is on the offensive side where Notre Dame needs to think aggressively.

Other Stuff

Notre Dame football alumnus and ESPN personality Mike Golic, Jr. will join the ESPNU crew to call the game.  Golic has been a vocal advocate of the Fighting Irish lacrosse team for many years, and it will be fun to get a homer back in the commentary crew (we miss you, Eamon!).  We hope Mike will tell us how Tommy McNamara is doing with the bagpipes!

Please let us know your thoughts on the game in the comments section below or on Twitter @ND_Atl.  We try to incorporate as many of our followers’ impressions into our recaps as we can.

ND +1, o/u 18.5 for those interested in this sort of thing.