Both teams are looking to right the ship after tough stretches. The Tar Heels have lost three of their last five games, while the Terrapins have dropped back-to-back contests — each by a one-goal margin.
Here are three things to know ahead of Saturday’s matchup.
The last time these two played, the stakes couldn’t have been higher. UNC and Maryland met in the 2016 national title game after taking very different roads to get there. The Tar Heels overcame a nightmare start to make the Final Four, while the Terrapins won 16 games in a row heading into the matchup.
But records and reputations were thrown out the window in Philadelphia on May 30.
North Carolina opened up the contest on a 4-0 run. Maryland was able to settle down, however, scoring the next four goals to tie the game.
UNC trailed by two goals with less than five minutes to go, but clawed back to force overtime. In the extra period, Tar Heel attacker Chris Cloutier scored to give North Carolina its first title in 25 years.
Cloutier — now a junior — and the Tar Heels will hope to have similar success in Saturday’s game.
Much like last season, North Carolina started this year off slowly.
Through the first month of the 2015-16 season, the Tar Heels were 3-3 and having a bit of an identity crisis. The struggles led to a team meeting in a hotel in Amherst, Massachusetts, where the players and coaches convened to decide what the rest of the season would be for them.
UNC’s next game after the meeting was an 18-2 dismantling of Manhattan. The Tar Heels had an up-and-down regular season, but caught fire in May and won the title.
This year’s team faces a similar dilemma. The reigning national champions started the season 4-3, dropping back-to-back home games over Spring Break before demolishing Dartmouth on March 18.
How the Tar Heels handle the early adversity will likely be the key to the rest of their season. A win over Maryland on Saturday would be a step in the right direction.
UNC head coach Joe Breschi currently sits at 99 wins. A victory against the Terrapins would give him his 100th and could be the kickstart North Carolina needs to save its season.
And Breschi is exactly who UNC wants leading the way in a turnaround. Before he came to Chapel Hill in 2009, North Carolina had only gone to the NCAA Tournament four times in 12 years. Since his arrival, the Tar Heels have gone to eight in a row.