Maryland men’s lacrosse ready vs. Duke in NCAA Quarterfinals

7-seed Maryland 9-5 (3-3 Big Ten) vs 2-seed Duke 13-5 (2-4 ACC)
Where: James M. Shuart Stadium, Hofstra University
When: 2:30 PM, Saturday May 18th
TV: ESPNU — Chris Cotter, Paul Carcaterra

After their dominant 16-8 win at home over the Princeton Tigers in the first round of the NCAA tournament, Maryland now sets its sights on a familiar opponent when they face Duke for the first matchup since 2021.

The Blue Devils are coming off a convincing 19-7 win over Utah in the first round of the NCAA Tournament after dominating the Utes in every aspect of the game, though Duke enters the weekend .500 in their last six games. Duke is a team that is a very balanced squad and does not rely on just one side of the ball to win games, entering the weekend third in the country in scoring margin (+4.89). In four of their five losses, Duke’s defense gave up at least 14 goals. If the Terps want to pull off the upset, they will need to replicate last week’s offensive performance to score on every extra possession.

Defensively, Duke is led by All-American close defender Kenny Brower, a punishing defender who loves to exploit an offensive player’s mistakes. This season, Brower leads the Blue Devils in caused turnovers with 19 and picking up 27 ground balls. Though seldom used on the fastbreak, Brower hasn’t recorded a point this season and has only taken one shot. If Brower does get the ball off a turnover or ground ball, expect him to give up the ball fairly quickly. The other two players to look out for on Duke’s defense are their two long stick midfielders — Tyler Carpenter and Jake Wilson. Carpenter and Wilson are tied for second on the team with 16 caused turnovers while also picking up 66 ground balls between the two. Carpenter has 51 of those ground balls, most of which he has picked up during face-offs.

All eyes will also be on the faceoffs on Saturday with two All-Americans going at it. With Luke Wierman looking to pad to his storied career, he’ll go up against Duke star Jake Naso who enters Saturday winning 57.5% of his faceoffs. The wing play from both teams will be big in this game with the stalemate that is expected to happen at face-off. Look for there to be plenty of battles for ground balls off of face-offs in this game, and if the Terps win the majority of the face-offs giving the offense extra possessions, I like their chances at pulling off the upset. 

On the other end, Duke is led by a trio of All-American attackman with none other than Tewaaraton finalist and reigning winner Brennan O’Neill. O’Neill, a 6-foot-2, 250-pound attackman, is one of the quicker players in the country and might be one of the larger attackmen in the country, but he moves like a smaller shifty player while also using his larger build to his advantage. This season, O’Neill leads the Blue Devils in points scored with 78, coming off 51 goals and 27 assists.

Along O’Neill’s side are Josh Zawada and Dyson Williams. Zawada is a Michigan transfer that is very familiar with the Terps. Zawada scored 13 points against the Terps in two games last season while at Michigan. This season, Zawada leads the Blue Devils in assists with 44, while also scoring 33 goals. This season Zawada has been the quarterback of Duke’s offense and does most of his work from behind the net. Outside of O’Neill, Zawad’s favorite target is Williams, an amazing finisher who finished with a team-high 55 goals as he does his damage around the crease. Ajax Zappitello and the rest of the Terps defense will have their hands full against one of the nation’s top offenses on Saturday.

Maryland leads the all-time series against the Blue Devils 62-20, though have won six of 13 neutral site matchups. Maryland head coach John Tillman is 8-5 all-time against Duke while Duke head coach John Danowski is 5-12 against the Terps. The last time these two rivals met was in the 2021 national semifinals when Maryland dismantled Duke in a 14-5 win. With a spot to the Final Four and a trip to Philly on the line, this will be a hard-fought game that should be very physical against two blue bloods of college lacrosse.

Prediction: Maryland 11-10

I only see this game going two different ways. Either it will be a Duke blowout where they completely shut down the Terps offense but the Terps hold Duke to 13 or 14 goals, or it will be a close one-point game where the Terps defense slows down the Duke offense till the very end and the Terps offense does just enough to pull off the upset. Another important stat is that since John Tillman took over after the 2010 season, the Terps are 9-1 in the quarterfinal round of the NCAA Tournament. And because of this, I predict Maryland pulls off the upset and heads back to Memorial Day weekend yet again. The game is set to face off at 2:30 PM and will air on ESPNU.

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