There are both positives and negatives associated with winning a hard-fought game late in the regular season only to see that same opponent again, later, when the stakes are higher.
This isn't lost on former La Salle High School standout Niko Amato of Conshohocken. Now the goalie for the Maryland men's lacrosse team, Amato was in the nets last week when the Terrapins (10-2) corralled a 12-8 victory at Notre Dame (6-5). The victory gave the Terps the 2014 regular-season Atlantic Coast Conference championship. The teams will meet again at 7:30 p.m. Friday in the semifinals of the ACC Men's Lacrosse Championship at PPL Park in Chester.
Duke (12-2) will take on Syracuse (9-3) at 5 p.m. in the first semifinal. The championship game will be played Sunday at 1 p.m.
Of the teams in the semifinals, only the Terrapins have regular-season wins over all three of the others.
"We know that we have to step our game up another level," Amato said of Maryland's rematch with Notre Dame. "I think beating them will give them added incentive to play even harder. We are excited to show that we are the better team again."
Since redshirting his freshman year at Maryland, Amato has built an impressive resumé.
With his selection Wednesday, the senior became the first goalie in the history of the ACC to be named to the all-conference team for the fourth time in his career. Amato has started every game of his college career - 62 straight entering the ACC tournament. He is third all-time in saves at Maryland with 582 and has led Maryland to a pair of NCAA title-game appearances (2011, 2012).
Named a team captain by coaches and teammates, the two-time all-American has had another banner season. He ranks fifth in the nation with a 7.38 goals-against average and is ninth in save percentage at .571.
Amato said that he has played only one real game in Philadelphia, last season against Villanova. He expects to have plenty of family and friends on hand at PPL Park. But don't expect his attention to drift from the task at hand.
"We're just focused on Friday at 7:30," Amato said. "You take it one game at a time because we can't control what's in front of us this weekend. They [the Fighting Irish] are a hungry team. We have to be hungrier."