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Duke offense looks to sprint past Terps

While most of the campus' attention will be focused on the rivalry game taking place at Cameron Indoor Stadium, an intense ACC matchup in its own right will be occurring at Koskinen Stadium at 2 p.m Saturday.

After blowing out a trio of unranked opponents by a combined score of 49-6, the No. 2 men's lacrosse team (3-0) will turn their attention to No. 4 Maryland (1-0) in a rematch of last season's national semifinal and the ACC Tournament final.

Over the past year, the Duke-Maryland series has seen its fair share of excitement. Duke began to garner attention last season when the then-No. 12 Blue Devils shocked the then-No. 3 Terrapins, 10-8, in College Park, Md. Given the tremendous impact the win had on last year, the Blue Devils see this early-season game as an important step in their quest to return to the NCAA Championships in Philadelphia.

"It's huge for us, just like it was last year when we played them away," junior Matt Danowski said. "It's going to be a good test."

Maryland will attempt to slow down Duke's high-octane offense with a very conservative attack, one that takes a notoriously long time to develop and generate goals. The Terrapins' offense is anchored by U.S. National Team member Joe Walters, who has scored 18 goals and recorded five assists in seven career games against the Blue Devils.

This stalling strategy proved to be effective in last year's ACC championship game, as the third-seeded Terrapins were able to sit on an early lead and minimize the Blue Devils' possessions, effectively running the clock out to win the conference title, 9-5.

To counter this offensive style, Duke will look to its performance against Maryland in last season's national semifinals. The Blue Devils capitalized on face-offs and breakaways in transition to explode on a 9-0 first-half run. Behind four goals from Zack Greer and three goals and two assists from Matt Zash, Duke went on to win 18-9.

"We're going to go out and execute and play as hard as we can and try to get transitions," Danowski said. "They're going to sit on the ball like they usually do when they play us, so we need to try and play smart and I think we'll be alright."

Unlike the last meeting, however, the Blue Devils are anticipating this game to be decided by the final possessions of the fourth quarter.

"Maryland will be a one-goal battle decided in the last couple minutes," head coach Mike Pressler said. "It's the way it always is. Two excellent defenses, two complete teams, two teams very hungry for their first ACC win in 2006. We always expect that outcome."

The game will also be important in the standings in the four-team ACC, as the two squads will only meet this one time before a possible matchup in the conference tournament in late April.

"The winner has a leg-up, and the loser has a long way," Pressler said. "We've won it and done well and we've lost it and done well. It's just another early-season big game."

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