Virginia at Maryland: Three things to watch
Is another seven-overtime contest in store when No. 1 Virginia (9-0) visits No. 5 Maryland (6-1) at Byrd Stadium in College Park on Saturday at 8 p.m.? Here are a few factors that might play a role in the final score.
1. One key to a Virginia win: It’s no surprise that the Cavaliers rank second in scoring (14.4 goals per game), fifth in defense (7.3) and first in scoring margin (7.1). Some of the credit for those lofty rankings belongs to the team’s uncanny knack for collecting ground balls. Virginia ranks first in Division I with 40 ground balls per game and has won every ground ball statistic this season. More ground balls mean more opportunities on offense, fewer chances for opponents to attack the defense, and a combination of more caused turnovers and fewer giveaways. "That means they’re very athletic and compete for the ball," Terps coach Dave Cottle said. "... We typically have not been bad when the ball is on the ground, but Virginia has been dominant this year. So it’s a challenge for us. We’ve got to get after the ball. We can’t let them bully us like they’ve bullied some of the other teams when the ball is on the ground."
2. One key to a Maryland win: The Terps suffered the first loss of their season last Saturday, falling, 9-7, to No. 3 North Carolina. The Tar Heels’ large and rangy defense made life miserable for Maryland by refusing to slide and daring the offensive players to beat them on one-on-one matchups. Cottle said practices have entailed the Terps working on winning their individual matchups and forcing the defense to slide, which opens up shooting lanes for teammates. "When you play Carolina and you play Virginia and you play Syracuse, they play big boy defense," Cottle said. "Everybody has their man, and you’ve got to run by your man. So we have to change our practices so that we’re not sliding and the offense isn’t seeing everybody is being slid to. We have to give them a better look where they don’t see slides. We’ll be better at it this week than we were last week. We’ve got to do a better job of running by somebody from the midfield."
3. One key matchup: The dilemma for Maryland – and this applies to many of Virginia’s opponents – is determining which player to defend with a long stick. No. 12 Johns Hopkins tried to double-pole junior midfielders Shamel and Rhamel Bratton, which left senior midfielder Brian Carroll to record two goals and three assists, and both Brattons posted three goals each. The prowess of the first midfield to draw slides gives attackmen like sophomores Steele Stanwick and Chris Bocklet and freshman Matt White opportunities to score. Without giving up any trade secrets on how his defense intends to limit the Cavaliers, Cottle said the unit will have to be effective and disciplined. The defense has had success against Virginia before: the 10 goals the Cavaliers scored in last year’s seven-overtime thriller were the fewest they had produced in a win that season.