For the second consecutive week, Maryland lacrosse takes on an opponent without any prior film to watch from this season. Also, for the second consecutive week, Maryland takes on an opponent which it narrowly defeated last season.
“We have game experience, and game experience is really important,” defenseman John Geppert said. “We look at that and we value that more than [Penn] has film on us.”
Last season’s matchup in Philadelphia was a nail biter, as junior midfielder Roman Puglise scored the game-winner. In that matchup, the attack tandem of junior Logan Wisnauskas and senior Jared Bernhardt combined for 12 points. Both Bernhardt and Wisnauskas have been excellent to start the season, combining for 23 points. Wisnauskas and junior attackman Anthony DeMaio connected for the game-winner last Saturday against Richmond.
Penn enters the 2020 season coming off its best season under 11th year head coach Mike Murphy. The Quakers won the Ivy League Championship and suffered a heartbreaking 19-18 overtime loss to Yale in the NCAA Tournament quarterfinals. Offensively, the Quakers lost attackman Simon Mathias to graduation, who was second on the team with 62 points last season. However, Penn returns a plethora of talent offensively, most notably attackman Adam Goldner, who scored 56 goals in 2019.
Similar to Maryland, Penn has great balance offensively and plays a fundamentally sound, physical style of lacrosse. In addition to Goldner, freshman midfielder Sam Handley impressed in his first season, scoring 61 points. With the absence of Mathias, Handley should become even more involved in the Quakers offense. Communication defensively will be paramount for Maryland, against the Quakers versatile offense. Following some communication issues for the first three quarters against Richmond, Maryland shored up its defensive communication in the fourth quarter and will look to build on that Saturday.
“[Penn] does a lot of different things offensively to get you moving,” head coach John Tillman said. “They have good dodgers that force you to slide, you have to constantly be communicating and be buttoned up as a defense.”
Offensively for the Terps, unselfishness and offensive balance will continue to be prevalent themes. Anticipation and communication will also be important, facing off against a disciplined and physical Quakers defense. When Maryland’s offense has been at its best this season, off-ball movement has been the key catalyst. Moving off-ball has forced opposing defenses to rotate out of position, allowing the Maryland attackman to take advantage finding a seam in the defense.
Through two games this season, Maryland has been efficient in their early offense, pushing the pace in transition off face-off. The Quakers, who have talented long-stick midfielders and an efficient Fogo, could make that strategy difficult. Kyle Gallagher won 63% of his faceoffs last season, including 21 against the Terps last year — his second highest total of the 2019 season.
Winning the battle at the faceoff X and maintaining effective communication for four quarters will be pivotal for Maryland to pick up its third consecutive win against a ranked opponent to start the season.
“We got a very dangerous team that can put up a lot of goals, and a faceoff guy that was a third team All American last year,” Tillman said of Penn. “[It’s] a great challenge and a team that we’ve got a ton of respect for.”