No. 3 Maryland (6-0 B1G) has an opportunity to extend its undefeated season against No. 19 Penn State (2-4 B1G) when the two teams face off on Saturday in College Park.
For the first time this season, the Terps will be able to play in front of more than just friends and family. Earlier this week, Maryland Athletics announced that some fans would be able purchase tickets to the final two home games.
“We’ve definitely missed the fans in the stadium so it will be good to have them there and some more family to support us, so we’re definitely looking forward to it,” defender Matt Rahill said.
In the first meeting, the Terps edged out the then-No. 13 Nittany Lions 13-7 in a terrific defensive performance headlined by Logan McNaney’s career-high 16 saves. McNaney and the Maryland defense have grown stronger in each game including in its two most recent contests, holding opponents to less than 10 goals.
On Saturday, the Terps will look to replicate a similar defensive effort and that all starts with slowing down Penn State star attackman Mac O’ Keefe. He struggled in State College with just one goal as Nick Grill hounded him and didn’t allow the prolific shooter to get his hands free.
O’Keefe’s lone goal came off of an intercept on the ride, which Maryland will need to be cognizant of throughout. He’s the leading catalyst of Penn State’s offense with a combined seven goals in their two victories.
Fellow attackman T.J. Malone is a perfect complement to O’Keefe and is almost equally as dangerous as a facilitator. Maryland’s defense also held him in check with just one goal in the opening meeting and will look for similar success on Saturday.
“That’s gonna be hard and to expect that to me would be unrealistic,” Tillman said of holding O’Keefe and Malone to a combined two goals. “We’re gonna do our best, I think some of the guys that they put in are getting more comfortable and confident. We’re just gonna have to be really buttoned up. We’re gonna have to be really organized and communicate. Our slides are going to have to be on point.”
Jared Bernhardt will be the focal point of Maryland’s offense once again, continuing to showcase why he’s one of the best attack men in college lacrosse. He’s now just one goal away from tying Matt Rambo’s program record of 155.
Bernhardt’s ability to draw slides has been a pivotal part of the Terps’ success offensively in recent contests allowing players like Kyle Long and Daniel Maltz to benefit from all of the attention he draws.
Maltz scored four goals in the first meeting while Logan Wisnuaskas added a hat trick, presenting challenges for the Nittany Lions defense.
One of the biggest emphases for the Terps will be at the faceoff X where they had troubles in State College. Justin Shockey went 0-6 against Penn State’s Gerard Arceri prompting Tillman to bring in Connor Calderone, who finished the game 7-17 on faceoffs.
However, Shockey has bounced back in recent weeks including last week against then-No. 5 Rutgers winning 15-of-25 faceoffs. While not all of the responsibility lies on Shockey, Tillman and the coaching staff are looking for more consistency from the senior.
“He’s been inconsistent, but he’s also a guy that we know has potential, so how do you manage that,” Tillman said of Shockey. “[We talk about] what we need to do physically in terms of what we’re teaching him at the faceoff itself, but also mentally preparing him because it didn’t go well the first time. You can’t start 0-6 at the faceoff X in our conference and expect to win a lot of games.”
One of the biggest keys to Maryland’s second-half runs this season has been the success at the faceoff X and ability to maintain possessions. More faceoff victories will go a long way in deciding if Maryland’s able to extend its undefeated record on an afternoon where they’ll be honoring 16 seniors.
The game will air on BTN Plus with opening face-off at 1 p.m.
“You have to remind the guys this is a brand new opportunity, people have made adjustments, they’re hungry,” Tillman said.