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Hobart at Towson men's lacrosse: Three things to watch

Towson coach Shawn Nadelen pats the helmet of Mike Lowe during the CAA men's lacrosse championship game against Fairfield. Towson wins 4-2.
Towson coach Shawn Nadelen pats the helmet of Mike Lowe during the CAA men's lacrosse championship game against Fairfield. Towson wins 4-2. (Kim Hairston / Baltimore Sun)

Hobart owns a commanding 10-4 record in the all-time series, but Towson has won the past two meetings – a 10-9 overtime decision on March 31, 2012 and a 9-6 victory on March 14, 2015.

The Statesmen are making their fifth appearance in the NCAA Division I tournament, but their first since 2004. The Tigers qualified for their 13th NCAA postseason and their third in the past four years.

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Hobart (10-6) was the No. 3 seed in the Northeast Conference tournament,and upset No. 2 seed Bryant and No. 1 seed St. Joseph's for the program's first league tournament championship. An offense that has scored 9.5 goals per game is led by its starting attack. Junior Frank Brown paces the team in goals (34) and points (43), freshman Chris Aslanian, the NEC Rookie of the Year, ranks second in goals (23) and assists (12), and junior Sean Donnelly leads the offense in assists (13) and ranks third in points (27).

Towson (14-2) became the first top seed in the Colonial Athletic Association tourney to capture the title by outlasting No. 2 seed Fairfield, 4-2. The team's defensive effort was sparked by Mike Lowe. The senior defenseman limited Stags freshman attackman Colin Burke to one assist, caused two turnovers, and picked up two ground balls en route to being named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player.

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Here are a few factors that could play a role in the outcome at 4 p.m. Wednesday at Johnny Unitas Stadium in Towson.

1) Start strong. Towson has trailed by the end of the first quarter in four of its last eight games. As a show of its resiliency, the team has rebounded to win seven of those contests. But coach Shawn Nadelen would feel a lot better – and less anxious – if the Tigers came out of the locker room strong.

"We can't allow ourselves to come out stagnant or tentative or unfocused," he said. "At this point in the season, you have to play a complete game from start to finish and be at your best from the start. So we've got to do that and be able to come out onto the field ready to play."

2) Solve Hobart's goalie. The Statesmen own Division I's top man-down defense, having killed off 79.6 percent (39-of-49) of opponents' extra-man opportunities. Towson has fared decently on man-up offense, ranking 16th with a 44.2 conversion rate (19-of-43), but Nadelen said the key is figuring out junior goalkeeper Jackson Brown, who ranks 24th in saves per game (10.3) and 26th in save percentage (.526).

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"They've got a good goalie," he said. "I think that's the key to any man-down defense. You're only as good as your goalie in that regard, and he's really good. They'll shut some guys at times, they'll pressure at times, they do different things to throw teams off their rhythm. Between that and having a good goalie between the pipes that can make saves, that's perhaps why they've been so good on man-down."

3) Claim faceoffs. Sophomore J Andrew Spallanzani has won 57.5 percent (146-of-254) of the draws he has taken for Hobart including going 59.4 percent (19-of-32) in the NEC tournament. Towson is relying on the duo of junior Alec Burckley (52.3 percent on 125-of-239) and sophomore Steven Stillwell (51.4 percent on 37-of-72) to handle faceoffs, and Nadelen reaffirmed that both players could get an equal number of reps against the Statesmen.

"We need to do as well as we can at the faceoff X," he said. "I think that allows us to be successful. … Both of those guys understand their value on this team and what their role is. They need to continue to approach that with a workmanlike attitude and be able to put their best on the field on Wednesday."

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