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Villanova Lacrosse Preview: #10 Villanova at #7 Maryland

After a decisive 14-8 loss to Princeton on Tuesday night, the schedule does not do the Villanova Wildcats any favors, as they will travel to College Park, Maryland on Saturday to take on the Maryland Terrapins at 1 PM. The Cats enter this top 10 showdown with a 4-2 record, while the host Terps have amassed 4 wins and 1 loss on the young season. Maryland's biggest win was a 10-7 victory over Duke, although the Blue Devils are struggling thus far. Their only loss came at the hands of UMBC back in early March.

It's no secret this year that the Nova defensive unit has not been stingy enough on a consistent basis. The Villanova defense enters the contest allowing over 10 goals a game, and netminder Dan Gutierrez's save percentage has dropped to 49.2%. If the Cats don't improve on these numbers this weekend, it could get ugly at Byrd Stadium, because the Terps are averaging almost 12.5 goals a contest. Three players are in double figures for Maryland so far; Joe Cummings (14 pts), John Haus (13 pts), and Drew Snider (10 pts). Luckily for Nova, it looks like midfielder Jake Bernhardt will not play on Saturday, as he has missed every game with a shoulder injury.

Although Villanova only put up 8 goals in the loss to Princeton, the Wildcat offense is still the strength of this squadrant. As usual, Will Casertano, Jack Rice, CJ Small, and Kevin Cunningham are the catalysts that spark this offensive unit to a 11.5 goals per game average. Nova will need a balanced offensive output against last year's national runner-ups, because Maryland has a goalie that is on a roll this year. Goalie Niko Amato, from Philadelphia, is a top-tier keeper with his 63.3% save percentage. As a whole, Maryland's defense only gives up a meager 7.2 goals per game.

Villanova looked very good early on this season, but the last week has been troubling. Penn is not an NCAA caliber team this year and the Cats needed a miracle to squeak out that game. Three days later and they get routed by Princeton at home. I would expect a renewed focus from Nova this weekend against a very physical Maryland team. The Cats need to get off to a quick start in this one, because if not, Maryland has horses that can run all day and make it a long afternoon down in College Park.