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Taking A Closer Look At Saturday’s Semifinals

A wild day in Foxborough, plus a preview of what’s to come on Monday!

NCAA Lacrosse: Men's Championship Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Saturday’s slate of games provided us with another Big Ten battle. But let’s take a look at some of the plays that decided both of these games.

Towson vs. Ohio State

Ohio State senior Eric Fannell was kept quiet for the first half – mostly by Towson short-stick defensive midfielder Zach Goodrich. The Buckeyes’ struggled to get into their six-on-six offense, focusing more on making banged-up Towson face-off specialist Alex Woodall defend two-man games.

The first half cat-and-mouse games paid off in the end; Ohio State’s Jake Withers won 10-of-13 second half face-offs. Fannell (2G, 1A) and company made the most of the ensuing possessions. As Withers’ post-face-off strategies wore down Woodall, Fannell’s bruising dodging style took its toll on the Towson defense. From the wing, Fannell can drive through his man with brute strength or around him with shifty changes of direction.

Slide (or even think about sliding) to him, and he’ll find cutters with beautiful behind-the-back passes. You could make the case that this matchup went exactly as Towson planned -- Fannell shot 2-for-11! -- and Goodrich might be the only short-stick in the country who could’ve limited Fannell on an island.

But ultimately, the other ways that Ohio State’s offense can beat you were enough. Maryland will need an answer for Fannell, and it won’t be a short-stick. It will likely be Schmeisser Award winner Tim Muller.

Denver vs. Maryland

Muller dominated his semifinal matchup against his former teammate, Connor Cannizzaro (1-for-4 shooting, 2TO). Look for the Terps to turn Fannell into a shooter like Towson did. In two matchups with the Terps this season, Fannell shot 7-for-17 with no assists. When you have a guy with Muller’s size (6-1, 215) and footwork (watch him go step-for-step with Cannizzaro), you can stick him on a superstar player like Fannell without worrying about sending a slide.

The Terps’ best offense on Saturday came off two-man games. Matt Rambo (1G, 1A) and Colin Heacock (2G) didn’t do as much damage as usual with the ball in their stick – but as pickers, both sprung teammates free for shots. The Pioneers’ pick defense was lazy; they refused to switch, but failed to fight through time and time again. I understand that coaches spend hours watching film and planning matchups – but with 8 seconds left on the shot clock, who cares if you switch from Rambo?!

Maryland might use more of these actions all over the field when they see how Ohio State defended Towson’s two-man games.

Championship Monday Preview

Towson seniors Joe Seider (3G) and Ryan Drenner (3G, 1A) had similar success against the Buckeyes running off picks. The Buckeyes weren’t sending a third defender, and the picker’s defender never chipped the ball-carrier.

The Buckeyes were at their best in their zone defense. They sprinkled in zone possessions against Towson, but never relied on it heavily. Will they lean on it more if they can get an early lead? Or to help slow the tempo on one day of rest? When the Buckeyes do go into zone, will it stop the Terps?

Teams win championships when their star players perform at a championship level. Chris Cloutier. Wes Berg. Jordan Wolf. Justin Ward.

Both Ohio State and Maryland have the star players. They’ve schemed for each other. And then they’ve schemed again. Monday’s matchup will come down to the stars. Who steps up and joins the list of unforgettable Memorial Day performers?