What to Watch For: Maryland-Virginia
Both Maryland and Virginia have changed their makeups considerably since they met April 2 in the regular season, a 12-7 win by Maryland. Virginia's main changes have come through personnel moves, namely the discipline of the Bratton twins. Maryland's change has perhaps been more emotional, rallying around the idea of sending 17 seniors out with a title – Maryland's first in 36 years – while keeping in mind the passing of Ryan Young's mother.
"I see a team playing with great confidence right now," Virginia coach Dom Starsia said Sunday of Maryland. "It's probably been an emotional change than it has been anything else. They've been impressive to watch in action."
Here's what to watch for Monday on the field at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore.
Steele Stanwick vs. Brett Schmidt and the Maryland Defense
The Virginia offense runs through Stanwick, and Cavaliers players have been directed to make sure Stanwick gets at least one touch per possession. This is no secret to opponents, but Stanwick has been extremely effective beginning with the Penn game April 30. Stanwick has 25 points since then, and 20 points in three tournament games.
Maryland is likely to assign Brett Schmidt to cover the Tewaaraton candidate.
"They got a guy who's a good matchup for Steele. We think that's how they'll match up," Starsia said. "[Schmidt] has really great feet."
"He's definitely stepped it up," Schmidt said of Stanwick. "He's just plays so smart. You can see it, he hangs guys up all the time using big-little. He sets it up for his teammates. We need to play our team defense, give them shots that we can make the saves on, and get the ball going in transition."
Maryland coach John Tillman compared Virginia's use of Stanwick to how North Carolina used current Denver Outlaws attackman Billy Bitter this season.
"They'll run a pick for him, and then you got to make a decision: fight through the pick or do you have to switch?" Tillman said.
Curtis Holmes and the Wings
Curtis Holmes has won 62.9 percent of his faceoffs and the wings, led by short stick Dan Burns, whose return midseason has boosted the unit, and long stick Brian Farrell, have created a challenge for the opposition to grab possessions.
"Winning the faceoff piece is one of our chief concerns," Starsia said. "They win their fair share. We need to get some possessions for ourselves."
Holmes had taken all but 15 of the Maryland's faceoffs this season. Virginia will counter with a rotation of Garret Ince, Ryan Benincasa and Brian McDermott, none of whom have won more that 51 percent this season. McDermott, however, did go 9-for-14 against Denver in the semifinals. Ince was 4-for-10.
"When Curtis Holmes is winning 60-plus percent of his faceoffs that takes a little bit of pressure off the defense. The offense is able to grind it out and possess," Tillman said.
The Cavaliers Defense
Maryland is expecting the zone defense that Virginia has used extensively since Matt Lovejoy was shelved for the year with a shoulder injury in April. The Cavs didn't use the zone defense the first time around against Maryland, but started using if after when Lovejoy was reinjured in the game.
"We were kind of inexperienced of the defense end when we lost Matt, and we needed to simplify a bit," said Chris Clements, who moved from close defense to long stick midfield before the Penn game. "The zone helped take away the problems we were having off-ball and some individual matchups we needed to look at. The zone made us more effective as we got better with it."
For the Terps, they prepared for a zone thrown at them by North Carolina in the first round of the tournament, and during two regular season games.
"Getting ready for Carolina, we had to get ready for zone three times," Tillman said. "Virginia plays zone and we have one day to get ready. That's OK because three weeks ago we had to prepare for zone, and we had to prepare for Billy [who they use like Stanwick]."
"Who's Niko?" Tillman joked Sunday. The redshirt freshman from Conshohocken, Pa., made 13 saves against Duke, and bailed the defense out early with five first-quarter stops.
"Niko was terrific when we needed him [Saturday] night. We got off to slow start," Tillman said.
He was good in the regular-season matchup with Virginia as well, making 12 saves.
"He was very good in high school and he is very good now," said fellow Philadelphia area native, Virginia midfielder John Haldy. "Not much has changed. We're going to have to put the ball in the right spots. We're going to have our work cut out for us."