No. 4 Maryland men’s lacrosse has bounced back from its week two loss to No. 7 Loyola with back-to-back ranked wins, most recently against No. 5 Princeton.
On the schedule next for the Terps is another ranked foe in No. 2 Notre Dame — a program the Terps have become very familiar with as of late.
After battling against each other just six times in a 12-year span that started in 2003, the Terps and the Fighting Irish have faced off 10 times in the last eight years, including each of the last seven seasons.
Even in the COVID-19 pandemic-shortened 2020 season and the conference-only regular season in 2021, the two programs couldn’t escape one another. The Terps’ second to last game of their 2020 campaign came against the Fighting Irish, and their 2021 bout occurred in the NCAA quarterfinals.
“There are certain things that we will tweak year-to-year, much like Notre Dame does … you turn over a quarter of your roster, but you return typically 75 percent of your team,” coach John Tillman said. “We tend to take inventory after the year and ask ourselves, ‘Should we change anything? Would we be better off doing x, y or z?’ But, a lot of times, teams have an identity.”
Notre Dame had Maryland’s number in the middle of the 2010s, winning four straight in a stretch from the second meeting in 2014 to the schools’ 2017 meeting. The Notre Dame defense consistently stifled the Maryland offense in that span, allowing a total of 19 goals in its four wins. The most goals the Terps scored in any of those games was six.
“I just know with Notre Dame, they’ve always played great defense, they’ve always had talented players,” Tillman said. “Coach [Kevin] Corrigan has been doing it a long time, they have been a model of consistency. You know you’re gonna get challenged, you’re gonna get pushed.”
But since Maryland’s low-scoring 5-4 loss in 2017, Tillman’s squad has found more offensive success against Notre Dame.
The Terps are 4-1 in the last five meetings, averaging 12.8 goals per game. Maryland’s offense has broken through against the Fighting Irish, although it hasn’t solely been to a fiercer attack. The Fighting Irish have been a bit inconsistent on the defensive side on a year-to-year basis, but have still been a difficult unit to face.
Maryland has had a top 15 offense in the nation every season since 2014, including top 10 rankings in 2016 and 2017. On the other side, Notre Dame has ranked inside the top 30 in goals allowed every season since 2015, including top 10 finishes in 2016, 2018 and 2022. The Fighting Irish allowed the fewest goals a season ago.
The Terps’ offensive production has dipped this season, ranking outside of the top 30 in goals per game among all Division I schools through four games. Meanwhile, the Notre Dame defense hasn’t taken a step back, allowing the 11th fewest goals with the 13th best scoring defense thus far.
The Fighting Irish offense has been just as good, averaging the second most goals per game.
The result is a 3-0 record with margins of victory of 11, 10 and seven goals, good for a share of the NCAA-best 9.33 scoring margin this season.
“They have great personnel across the board,” Tillman said. “They’ve added some nice pieces to a really good returning team.”
The Terps and the Fighting Irish have both been ranked inside the top 10 in seven of their eight regular season matchups since 2014 — the lone time one team was outside came in 2019, when Notre Dame was just on the outskirts with its No. 12 ranking at the time.
Maryland and Notre Dame are set for another top 10 battle Saturday afternoon at SECU Stadium, with the Terps hoping to continue their recent success over the Fighting Irish.