In a rare matchup since Maryland men’s lacrosse left the ACC, it was Virginia that stormed the field to lift the national championship trophy at the end of last season.
The Terps have lost their last two encounters with the Cavaliers by only one goal a piece, including their 17-16 defeat in last year’s national title game.
On Saturday, Maryland and Virginia will meet at a neutral venue for the third straight matchup — this time at Audi Field in Washington, D.C. — and will play each other during the regular season for the first time since 2014.
With the Terps and Cavaliers coming in at No. 1 and No. 2 respectively in the latest Inside Lacrosse and USILA polls along with the history between the two teams, coach John Tillman knows it will be not only be a spectacle for fans of both teams, but for college lacrosse.
“We know the rankings, it’s hard to not know that stuff,” Tillman said. “We know how last year ended. I’d be lying if I said that it’s just another game.”
While a national championship won’t be on the line this time, both teams’ undefeated records will be. Maryland and Virginia are two of the four remaining DI teams with a clean record thus far.
The Cavaliers will also have the chance to tie the all-time series record between the schools, which currently sits at 47-46 in the Terps’ favor.
The only school Maryland currently has an equal or losing record against is Johns Hopkins (47-67-1).
With how close the two teams have played each other in the past and how evenly matched both seem to be this season, focus has been the key for Tillman and his group heading into the tough matchup.
“They put you under pressure the whole game,” Tillman said. “There’s not a time where you can relax because they’ll attack you off faceoffs, they attack you off the clear, they attack you on the ride, you name it.”
Tillman also hopes his players can avoid becoming too emotional on the field due to their history with the Cavaliers, especially on the defensive side of the ball.
While Maryland has scored the most goals per game in the nation so far this season, Virginia sits second in the nation, just one goal behind the Terps while playing the same amount of games.
Given the attacking options the Cavaliers have in players such as Connor Shellenberger and Payton Cormier, Maryland can ill afford to lose its defensive shape trying to chase the ball and make a heroic play.
“That’s not going to help us against a team like Virginia because they are so organized on offense,” Tillman said. “If you’re not where you need to be and you start doing random things because you’re emotional, that’s not going to help you. So you’re trying to manage that aspect of it.”
However, the experience the Terps have not only on defense but all across the field, defender Brett Makar thinks Maryland has what it takes to slow down a dynamic Cavaliers offense.
“It’s a very cohesive unit and if everyone does their job, I’m confident with us against anybody,” Makar said.