After facing eight nonconference opponents, Maryland will open up Big Ten play with a familiar face on the opposite sidelines.
Former associate head coach and defensive coordinator Kevin Conry left last season’s title-winning Terps for the helm at Michigan last summer. Conry spent five seasons with the Terps, building a dynastical defensive unit that reached four Final Fours and graduated 11 professional players.
However, with the success he garnered at Maryland, Conry’s assistant coaching days were numbered. Having experienced the turnover of his coaching staff before, head coach John Tillman gave a reflective perspective on Conry’s departure.
“You realize that any assistant coach investing a lot into the program and making a lot of sacrifices, their ultimate goal is to become a head coach,” Tillman said before the season. “And part of my job is to help them just like our players achieve their long-term goals.”
Senior two-way midfielder Adam DiMillo said the team will prepare for this game just like any other opponent, despite the familiarity of knowing the opposing coach.
“We really appreciate everything he did for us and our program,” DiMillo said. “But when it comes to the game it’s strictly business and we both put our caps on and go to work.”
Conry’s No. 15 Michigan (7-2), the highest ranking the program has ever received, will host the No. 2 Terps (7-1) recently coming off the biggest win in program history.
Before the Wolverines handled UMBC 9-6 last weekend, Conry’s new defensive unit held strong for the final minutes to edge then-No. 4 Notre Dame 13-12 in South Bend, Indiana. Junior midfielder Brent Noseworthy led the way offensively with five goals, and senior goalie Tommy Heidt stood strong with five stops. Noseworthy earned the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week with nine goals in the past two games.
The upset win was the first win over a top-five ranked opponent in its seven-year program history.
That historic win sets up a top-two Big Ten matchup in Ann Arbor on Saturday with both teams opening up conference play with momentum on their side. With only two blemishes in nine games to Ivy League teams Penn and Yale earlier this season, Noseworthy’s 31 dynamic goals on 61 shots from the midfield leads the team. Also, freshman Kevin Mack has scored a balanced 16 goals and 16 assists from the attack this season.
Still, Mack and company welcome a Terrapin team on an equally hot two-game win streak. Comfortable wins at Villanova and North Carolina have kept the Terps at the No. 2 national ranking.
Maryland has won its last six conference openers dating back to the last couple of seasons in the ACC, the last four of which came in the Big Ten. Since joining the Big Ten in 2015, Maryland has won the conference tournament twice in those three years.
This year, Maryland jumps into conference play with its specialists on the top of their games. Freshman faceoff specialist Justin Shockey went 80 percent from the X against North Carolina last weekend, garnering his second weekly Big Ten honors of the season. Senior goalie Dan Morris also comes into the game having made at least 10 saves in five of the first eight games.
Senior defenseman Bryce Young picked up his first-ever weekly honors as the Big Ten Defenseman of the Week thanks to not only the role he played in holding the Tar Heels to seven goals, but also scoring a clutch transition goal to end a Carolina comeback effort.
The last time Maryland visited Ann Arbor, the Terps won a 7-8 snowy thriller where senior midfielder Bryan Cole notched the game-winning goal and senior goalie Kyle Bernlohr saved the day with an acrobatic diving save. Also, junior close defenseman Curtis Corley won 4-of-5 second half faceoffs to propel the Terps to victory.
Maryland also comes into the game with the nation’s best extra man unit, converting 63 percent of its opportunities thanks to both the shooting and vision of point man, Connor Kelly. The senior midfielder has 43 points (22 goals, 21 assists) through eight games after posting 57 points all of last season.
But it’s been the increased offensive production from the second-line midfield that has really helped the Terps, as players like DiMillo, Anthony DeMaio and Colin Giblin have all broken onto the scene scoring eight goals collectively. DiMillo attributed his own personal offensive success to better team chemistry, as he’s now scored one more than all of last year’s regular season.
The Terps will look win its third consecutive game away from home on this four-game road stretch, traveling up to Penn State a week from this matchup.
Opening faceoff is at noon and can be watched live on the Big Ten Network.
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