The series between Mount St. Mary's and Georgetown is tied at 16-16, but the Mountaineers have dropped 16 of the last 17 meetings. Mount St. Mary's is wrapping up a season-opening four-game road stretch, while the Hoyas are playing at home for the first time this year.
Mount St. Mary's, which absorbed a 9-6 loss at Richmond a week ago, is trying to avoid a second consecutive 1-3 start. Despite a quiet outing in which he scored just one goal against the Spiders, attackman Mark Hojnoski is the team's catalyst on offense. The fifth-year senior leads the Mountaineers in goals (five), is tied with redshirt junior attackman Bubba Johnson for the lead in points (seven), and ranks second in ground balls (seven).
Georgetown, which dropped a 10-7 decision to No. 11 Towson on Saturday, has not begun a season with three straight losses since 1985. The offense appears to have unveiled first-year gem in Daniel Bucaro. The freshman attackman leads the Hoyas in goals (five) and points (six).
Here are a few factors that could play a role in the outcome at the newly named Cooper Field in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday at 3 p.m.
1) A quick start. Mount St. Mary's has had troubles getting out of the gates. In the two losses, the team trailed No. 11 Towson 5-1 late in the second quarter and Richmond 6-1 in the same period. Even in their 14-11 win at Delaware on Feb. 12, the Mountaineers fell behind, 9-6, early in the third quarter before rallying for the victory. Coach Tom Gravante said the team cannot afford another lethargic start against Georgetown.
"We can't start the game slow," he said. "In all three of our games, we've had a slow start. Against Delaware, we were down at halftime 7-5. Down 5-1 against Towson before closing the gap to 5-3 at halftime. Against Richmond, 6-1 and closed the gap to 6-6 in the third quarter. A lot of that is turnovers, blown clears. We've got to clean that up. It's got to be one-and-done on the defensive end when there's a shot and a save."
2) A ground ball. Mount St. Mary's has yet to finish a game with more ground balls than its opponent. The importance of pouncing on loose balls was highlighted in the win against the Blue Hens. After getting just 11 ground balls to Delaware's 21 in the first half, the Mountaineers matched the Blue Hens with 14 each and used them to embark on that 9-4 comeback in the second half.
"It's no secret. Ground balls win games," Gravante said. "That was the key to our W against Delaware. Even though if you look at the final stats, we didn't win it, but we did close the gap in the second half, and that was it. Same thing with the Richmond game. It was 6-1, and we picked up two ground balls back to back and scored off them. Next thing you know, within 30 seconds [from Richmond's last goal], it's a 6-3 ball game. That ground ball is key. That's like a goal. We've got to pick it up, and we've got to win that battle."
3) A mental toughness. Mount St. Mary's prides itself on being physically tough, but Gravante has challenged the players to be equally tough mentally. Tuesday's game is a perfect opportunity for the Mountaineers to prove their mettle against a Georgetown team playing at home for the first time, seeking its first win, and not happy about losses to No. 1 Notre Dame and Towson.
"They're hunting for their first win, and it's home for them," Gravante said. "So this is going to be an angry team. This is a team that's going to bring a lot of excitement and we need to do the same. I think we match up well and that it could be an exciting game, but against teams like this, we have to be just about perfect to win this game."