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Michigan at Maryland men's lacrosse: Three things to watch

No. 3 Maryland and Michigan, playing in their Big Ten Conference opener, have met just once before, with the Terps cruising to a 13-5 victory on March 18, 2014. The Wolverines are 1-1 on the road this spring and looking to end a two-game losing streak. The Terps are 3-0 at home, where they have not played since March 7.

Michigan (4-4) is seeking its first win against a ranked opponent. The defense has allowed 11.3 goals per game so far, ranking 51st out of 69 teams in Division I, but the Wolverines have a more-than-capable goalkeeper in Gerald Logan. The redshirt sophomore ranks fifth in the country in saves per game (13.3) and 17th in save percentage (.560).

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Maryland (7-1) has run off six straight victories since a 10-6 loss at then-No. 14 Yale on Feb. 21. The streak has coincided with the improved play of senior Charlie Raffa. The faceoff specialist ranks 13th in the nation in win percentage (61.1) and has passed Curtis Holmes for fourth place on the school's career wins list with 428.

Here are a few factors that could play a role in the outcome at Byrd Stadium in College Park at 5 p.m. Sunday.

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1) Will he or won't he? The Wolverines have played three games without Ian King, but the sophomore attackman still leads the offense in assists (10) and points (22). Junior Peter Kraus has replaced King, recording 12 points on six goals and six assists in those three contests. Terps coach John Tillman said the team has studied Michigan's offense without King, whom Maryland recruited.

"So we're pretty familiar with him," Tillman said. "We're trying to get a sense of, 'How does that make them different? Is he coming back?' We've got to prepare for him being in the lineup and not being in the lineup. But most importantly, we're going to prepare as if he will be back for our game. If he's not, then we'll have a contingency plan. But my gut would be that they'll try to have him ready for league play."

2) Will they or won't they? The Terps thumped Robert Morris, 13-4, on Tuesday despite playing without a pair of starting defensemen in junior Matt Dunn (Loyola Blakefield) and sophomore Mac Pons (Boys' Latin). Dunn and Pons have played significant roles in a defense that leads the country in fewest goals per game (4.9), but they were replaced by sophomore Tim Muller and freshman Bryce Young, who Tillman said fared well in their first starts of the season.

"We just have confidence in those guys," Tillman said. "We feel like we play a system, and coach [Kevin] Conry does a great job with it [as defensive coordinator]. One of the keys so far this year is that the guys have really just sacrificed a lot so that the team can win. Everybody is buying into what the system is and what their responsibility is."

3) Can they or can't they? Maryland's man-up offense ranks 27th in the nation, converting at a 42.1 percent clip (8-for-19). In the team's first six games, the unit went 5-for-15, but it has been more productive in the past two wins, going 3-for-4. That progression is an encouraging sign, as Tillman is always looking for the offense to score in scenarios other than six-on-six situations.

"The last two games, we've made some improvement," he said. "I think we're still a work in progress with what we've been doing. And we knew that it would be a bit of a challenge this year without [graduated attackman] Michael Chanenchuk. Michael was really the focal point of the man-up last year and was a guy that everybody else would really have to focus on. So we knew we'd be different his year, and we've been working on it and working on it."

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