No. 5 Maryland maintains a 45-43 lead in the series with its Atlantic Coast Conference rival, but No. 13 Virginia has won seven of the past eight meetings. The Terps (6-1 overall and 1-1 in the conference) entered the week ranked second in Division I in scoring (14.0 goals per game), but have averaged just nine goals in their past two contests. The Cavaliers (5-4) have lost three straight games for the first time since 2004 and four of the past five. This is Virginia’s first game in the ACC this season. Here are a few factors that could influence the outcome at Klockner Stadium in Charlottesville, Va., on Saturday.
1) Containing Virginia’s offense. The Cavaliers defense is in the middle of the pack in the country after surrendering an average of 10.1 goals thus far, but there is little that is pedestrian about the offense. That unit is ranked eighth, scoring 12.3 goals per game. No. 12 Johns Hopkins may have provided a blueprint for future opponents in Saturday’s 15-8 rout by attacking Virginia’s first midfield of senior Matt White, junior Rob Emery and sophomore Ryan Tucker (a combined one goal on 21 shots and zero assists). Maryland coach John Tillman said every member of the offense deserves a certain amount of attention. “If you key too much on their midfield, their attack is certainly capable of hurting you,” Tillman said. “We’ve got to be careful not to focus too much on one area and make ourselves susceptible in the others. We’ve really got to know their personnel, and we’ve got to play really good team defense, knowing that any six guys they have on the field are talented players. They have excellent dodgers, and they’re very skilled. So we need to make sure that we play really good team defense.”
2) Diversifying Maryland’s shot selection. The Terps’ 10-8 loss to then-No. 10 North Carolina last Saturday was due to several factors, but one troubling issue was the players’ dogged (some would say stubborn) determination to beat freshman goalkeeper Kieran Burke high even though the scouting report did not suggest that tactic. The Cavaliers will likely start sophomore goalie Rhody Heller, who has made the past two starts, but freshman Dan Marino has started six games this year. Tillman said the offensive players will have to realize that opposing goalkeepers are studying their tendencies. “I think as the season goes along, people are scouting you,” Tillman said. “I think goalies get a little better handle on the shots you’re taking, and they try to get a book on your shooters. I think that’s why you’ve got to constantly – as a shooter – have some different shots that you can take and change up the level of your shots and the locations.”
3) Turning faceoffs into scoring chances. Three of Johns Hopkins’ goals last Saturday occurred right after faceoff wins (one goal each by senior Mike Poppleton and sophomore Drew Kennedy and one goal by sophomore attackman Wells Stanwick after sophomore long-stick midfielder Michael Pellegrino picked up a ground ball off a draw). Maryland sophomore Charlie Raffa has registered four goals and one assist as the team’s primary faceoff specialist. The Terps will try to capitalize on those opportunities, but Tillman said he wouldn’t be shocked if Virginia tweaked its wing play to shut down those chances. “I think a lot of times, when you’re on the other end and you see that happen, you tweak some things,” he said. “So we’ll just do what we do. We had one on Saturday that we didn’t can, and we’ll practice those things. But when you see that you gave up a break or two, you’ll probably tweak some things. So those might be a little harder for us to come by.”