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Maryland at North Carolina: Three things to watch

Friday’s edition of The Sun highlighted No. 8 Johns Hopkins’ road contest at No. 1 Virginia and what the Blue Jays can do to return with a victory. There’s another tantalizing showdown between No. 5 Maryland (6-0) and No. 3 North Carolina (8-0). Here are a few developments that could factor into Saturday’s outcome.

1. One key to a Maryland win

The Terps’ biggest defensive assignment – and that applies to every defense tangling with the Tar Heels – involves limiting junior attackman Billy Bitter. The Tewaaraton Trophy candidate isn’t scoring at quite the pace he did last season (46 goals in 18 games versus 11 goals in eight contests this season), but Bitter leads the offense in assists (16) and points (27). "We have to share responsibility, I think that’s the first thing," Maryland coach Dave Cottle said of Bitter, who will likely begin the game with junior defenseman Max Schmidt shadowing him. "We’re going to have to make some saves when he does get by us. But we have to share responsibility as a team. We have to be physical with him. We have to be clean, but we have to be physical with him. When the ball’s at his feet, he’s got to know that there are some Maryland guys there." Defenses that have paid too much attention to Bitter have been burned by his attackmates in sophomore Thomas Wood (17 goals and 7 assists) and senior Gavin Petracca (12, 10).

2. One key to a North Carolina win

The Tar Heels are explosive, but not very deep. After their top four first attackmen and first midfield, the rest of the team has accounted for 13 goals and eight assists. Meanwhile, the Terps run three midfields, can send five guys to take face-offs, and rotate five short-stick defensive midfielders. That kind of depth has caught the attention of North Carolina coach Joe Breschi. "They’re very deep across the board with running nine offensive middies, five defensive middies, three or four face-off guys, four close defensemen and three poles," Breschi said. "I think it’s just their overwhelming depth, and they play with terrific energy and excitement and enthusiasm, and I think that’s going to be a big challenge for us. We’re not as deep as they are, but I feel like we’ve got to be able to match their enthusiasm and excitement on Saturday."

3. One key matchup

Maryland junior attackman Grant Catalino leads the team in goals (14), assists (15) and points (29), which is why he was added to the Tewaaraton Trophy watch list earlier this week. He doesn’t need much space or time to shoot, and he’s adept at getting his teammates involved. The 6-foot-4 Catalino will likely tangle with junior defenseman Ryan Flanagan, who is two inches taller but rangy and quick enough to mark opposing attackmen. How Flanagan handles Catalino could go a long way towards determining the winner.
Posted by Edward Lee at 9:20 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Maryland, Three things to watch

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About Faceoff
Faceoff is The Baltimore Sun's blog devoted to college and high school lacrosse. Faceoff contributors include Sun reporters Edward Lee, Mike Preston and Katherine Dunn.

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