FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Familiarity breeds . . . content.
That’s the case for Big Ten rivals No. 1 Maryland (15-3) and No. 3 Ohio State (16-4) for Monday’s NCAA Division I men’s lacrosse championship game at Gillette Stadium. The teams split two games this spring, both decided by one goal. But though the games were tense, there’s no extra tension among the players just because the stakes are much higher.
“I’m excited to play Maryland again. The whole team is excited to play Maryland again,” said Ohio State’s leading scorer, Eric Fannell (36 goals, 30 assists). “We couldn’t be more thrilled to play Maryland again, especially on the biggest stage of NCAA lacrosse.’’
It’s a rematch of the Big Ten title game, won by Maryland, 10-9, on May 9, which was a rematch of Ohio State’s 11-10 overtime win April 22. The Buckeyes sensed it coming on Selection Sunday when they saw the bracket.
“We looked at each other that night, and without knowing how this was going to turn out, we said, ‘Hey, we’re going to see these guys again if we take care of business,’ ” Ohio State coach Nick Myers said. “I think it’s exciting for the Big Ten. It’s exciting for Big Ten lacrosse.”
And because the teams are so familiar with each other, the learning curve to prepare for a title game on short rest is much less steep.
“It’s such a quick turnaround from [Saturday] until now that you don’t have a lot of time,” Maryland coach John Tillman said yesterday. “So the fact that we played them not only once but twice I think does help both teams and the kids. You don’t have to cram for the exam.”
But Maryland again will have to cram for a big test against an elite faceoff specialist. The Terrapins like to rotate Austin Henningsen (Northport), Jon Garino and Will Bonaparte depending on the matchups and how the game is going. Henningsen won 7 of 15 against Denver’s Trevor Baptiste in Saturday’s 9-8 victory.
Now comes Ohio State’s Jake Withers, who won 5 of 5 faceoffs in the second half of Saturday’s 11-10 win over Towson and is among the nation’s leaders with a .661 percentage. The Terps also had to battle Albany’s T.D. Ierlan (No. 2 to Baptiste nationally at .708) in an 18-9 quarterfinal win in which Garino went 12-for-14 on draws.
“It seems like we’ve come down Murderers’ Row,” Tillman said. “We start with T.D., who is awesome, and then Trevor, who is awesome, and Jake’s awesome. So it’s been challenging. I don’t think our numbers are awesome, but they’ve done enough to help us win.”
The Maryland FOGOs’ percentage is a modest .497. Freshman Alex Giovinco (Syosset) hasn’t played this season but practices with the unit, which goes by the nickname “the hog pen.”
“I’m not sure why,” Tillman said with a laugh, “but that’s what they like to call themselves.”
Probably a reference to doing the dirty work.
Division I men’s
Monday, Gillette Stadium, 1 p.m.
No. 3 Ohio State (16-4) vs. No. 1 Maryland (15-3)
Players to watch
Maryland: Matt Rambo (41 goals, 35 assists); Connor Kelly (45 goals, 11 assists); goalie Dan Morris
Ohio State: Tre Leclaire (48 goals, 15 assists); Eric Fannell (36 goals, 30 assists); goalie Tom Carey
NCAA championship history
Maryland: Six Final Fours in last seven years, 25 Final Four appearances, 11 national titles (last one in 1975)
Ohio State: First Final Four