Maryland head coach John Tillman is on his way to his sixth Final Four appearance in seven years, while some coaches are lucky to get to one in their lifetime. It’s practically become a yearly routine for his program, but Tillman considers every trip unlike the other.
“We kind of feel like you get experience from being there, but each year is different just because your team is different,” Tillman said in a Tuesday morning teleconference with the media. “I don’t ever take that for granted. I’m very appreciative having coached for a long time and not knowing if or how many times you’d get there.”
After breezing by Albany 18-9 in the NCAA Quarterfinals, Maryland faces the fourth-seeded Denver Pioneers this Saturday in the NCAA Semifinals, with a chance to play in its fifth championship game in six years.
The Great Danes beat North Carolina in the first round to move on and play the Terps, eliminating a potential championship rematch a year after the Tar Heels bested Maryland in overtime in Lincoln Financial.
Instead, the Terps draw a rematch of the 2015 national title game in the semifinals. Denver and Maryland haven’t played each other since that Memorial Day weekend, when the No. 4-seed Pioneers shut down No. 6 Maryland’s offense for a 10-5 win and the National Championship trophy.
Maryland is a far different team than two years ago, with a different dynamic and a real chance to quell the championship drought. In 2015, Tillman’s defense allowed 7.05 goals per game, and the offense scored just enough to beat their opponents. The Terps have maintained that elite-level defense, but vastly improved on the offensive side of the ball.
Through 16 games in 2015, Maryland’s offense tallied 156 goals behind just 73 assists. The Terps have played 16 games so far this season, and shattered those numbers with 201 goals, 105 assists and counting.
The biggest reason for this improvement comes from the progress of senior attackman Matt Rambo. A starter since his freshman year, Rambo has made the transition from a pure scorer to the team’s most versatile all-around offensive threat. Take a look at his stats from 2015 and 2017, the two years Maryland faced Denver: