Notre Dame vs. Maryland: Three things to watch
Maryland and Notre Dame meet for the second year in the NCAA Tournament with the Terps winning last year’s first-round showdown, 7-3. Maryland, the No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament, has been bounced from the quarterfinals in two consecutive springs, but a victory would guarantee the Terps their fourth Final Four appearance under coach Dave Cottle. The Fighting Irish are 1-2 in the quarterfinals, advancing to the national semifinals in 2001. The winner of Saturday’s contest at 12 p.m. at Princeton Stadium in Princeton, N.J., will move on and face either No. 7 seed Cornell (11-5) or Army (11-5) on Saturday, May 29 at either 4 or 6:30 p.m. at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore.
1. One key to a Notre Dame win: The Fighting Irish (8-6) have relied on an athletic and deep midfield. Junior Zach Brenneman leads the team in both goals (23) and points (35) and senior Grant Krebs is second in goals (22). But the unit could use a little more production from the attack. Senior Neal Hicks leads the way in assists (13) and ranks second in points (32), but he appears to be the lone threat on the attack. Sophomores Nicholas Beattie (10 goals and 7 assists) and Sean Rogers (9, 3) need to help Krebs relieve some of the offensive burden off of the midfield.
2. One key to a Maryland win: For all the firepower the Terps (12-3) boast on offense, none of that will really matter if they can’t solve Notre Dame senior goalkeeper Scott Rodgers. At 6-foot-4 and 254 pounds, Rodgers takes up a lot of real estate in the cage. In the first-round upset of Princeton, the Fighting Irish were content to pack in the defense and dare the Tigers to beat Rodgers on long-distance shots. Maryland took 33 shots against Notre Dame last year and must improve its shooting percentage and shot selection to force the defense to extend a bit further out.
3. One key match-up: I can’t say this with any degree of certainty, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Terps match up junior defenseman Brett Schmidt against Brenneman. Schmidt is a converted long-stick midfielder who has tangled with midfielders like Virginia junior Shamel Bratton and North Carolina sophomore Jimmy Dunster. Schmidt’s nimble feet and stickwork would seem to be a good test for Brenneman, the Fighting Irish’s top playmaker.