Maryland men’s lacrosse faces familiar opponent in NCAA Tournament

#7 seed Maryland 8-5 (3-3 Big Ten) vs Princeton 11-4 (6-2 Ivy)
Where: SECU Stadium
When: Saturday, May 11th, 7:30 PM
TV: ESPNU, Play by Play: Chris Cotter, Analyst: Paul Carcaterra

After a disappointing showing in the Big Ten tournament, Maryland men’s lacrosse squad now turns their sights on the NCAA tournament where they look to bounce back and make a potential run starting in College Park. 

Maryland will host the first round of the NCAA Tournament for the fourth straight season with Princeton Tigers in College Park for the third time in three years. Princeton was one of the nine teams to earn an automatic qualification for the tournament after convincingly winning the Ivy League tournament. Princeton won both of their conference tournament games by a total margin of 11. While the Terps did defeat the Tigers 13-7 back on February 24th this season, both teams have looked completely different as of late with Princeton riding a four-game win streak and entering the weekend as one of the hottest teams in the country.

On defense, the Tigers are led by their goalie Michael Gianforcaro. Gianforcaro has a save percentage of 57% and is only allowing 10.07 goals against per game. Earlier this season, Gianforcaro even went coast to coast and scored a goal, showing how he can also help out on the offensive side of the field. To help Gianforcaro out, the Tigers rely on Pace Billings and Michael Bath. Bath is the Tigers’ top long stick midfielder and leads the team in caused turnovers with 22 and is second on the team in ground balls with 37. Billions is second on the team with 19 caused turnovers while also picking up 28 ground balls. One area to watch out for with Billings is in transition. Billings has three goals on the season for the Tigers. Princeton is a team that loves to cause turnovers and get quick offense off those turnovers. If the Terps play a clean game offensively and do not turn it over much, I like their chances of pulling out the win. 

On offense, the Tigers are led by their star-studded attack of Coulter Mackesy and Nate Kabiri. Mackesy leads the team in goals with 39 and total points with 61 while Kabiri leads the team in assists with 25. Mackesy was matched up with Ajax Zappitello most of the game back in February and finished with just a goal and an assist. However, Kabiri on the other hand had a four-goal game against the Terps in his first trip back to the DMV. Kabiri is a freshman All-American candidate this season in his first year out of Georgetown Prep. If the Terps want to pull out the win, They will need to be able to slow down both Mackesy and Kabiri or it will be a long day for the Terps defense. 

One thing that looms large over Maryland’s hopes is the status of the leading scorer Braden Erksa after he was injured in the Big Ten semifinal game and taken off the field on a stretcher as a precautionary measure.

The Terps will look to avoid losing in the first round of the NCAA tournament two years in a row for the first time since 1993-1994. The Terps are also on their second two-game losing streak of the season and will be looking to avoid their first three-game losing streak since 2009. The Terps will be looking to extend their seven-game winning streak over the Tigers and give head coach John Tillman a 7-0 record over the Tigers all time. The winner of this game will travel to Hofstra University to face the winner of Duke vs. Utah next weekend.

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