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Susquehanna at Goucher men's lacrosse: Three things to watch

Goucher has an 8-1 advantage all time in this Landmark Conference series, but the last meeting went to Susquehanna, a 9-6 victory in last year's league tournament final. The Crusaders are 5-2 on the road this season, while the Gophers are 2-2 at home.

Susquehanna (8-2, 2-1) has split its past six games, most recently losing, 9-8, in double overtime at Marywood on Tuesday. A defense that has surrendered just 6.6 goals per game so far has been anchored by Jared Knowlton. The senior goalie ranks 18th in Division III in goals-against average (6.3) and 43rd in save percentage (.597).

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Goucher (7-3, 2-1) has won four of its past five games, including the past two against league rivals Washington & Jefferson on March 21 and Drew on Saturday. The defense has given up just 7.1 goals per game thanks to the play of Karl Wiszumerski. The senior goalie ranks 25th in the nation in goals-against average (6.76) and 76th in save percentage (.566).

Here are a few factors that could play a role in the outcome at Gopher Stadium at 4 p.m. Friday.

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1) The start. The Gophers have sprinted out of the gate this season, outscoring opponents 22-15 in the first quarter and 31-17 in the second. But that momentum isn't often sustained, and coach Brian Kelly pointed out that Goucher has struggled in the fourth quarter, getting outscored 25-19.

"We're trying to be consistent," he said. "Just searching for consistency on our end. Our big thing is, we can't do anything with what the opponent is trying to do. We just need to execute Goucher lacrosse to the best of our ability and do it consistently, and if we do, we should be in a position where we're outscoring all of our opponents across all four quarters, and that's just not the case at this moment. That's what we're working on right now."

2) The man-up. The Gophers are tied for 39th in the country in converting extra-man opportunities, succeeding on 37.8 percent (17-for-45) of their chances. Senior attackman Sam Morgan has fed off man-up situations, scoring seven of his team-high 18 goals. But the Crusaders rank 38th in man-down defense, killing 82.9 percent (29-for-35) of their shorthanded scenarios. Kelly knows Goucher must take advantage of those opportunities to manufacture goals.

"We're running all the same stuff we've been running, and it's just game to game what we're going to get from an execution standpoint," he said. "I think in the past, we've had success against their man-down unit, and we'll just hope that what we throw out there is executed to the best of our ability."

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3) The faceoff. With a torn anterior cruciate ligament sidelining Gophers junior faceoff specialist Tristan Morris for the rest of the season, junior Andrew Schwartz and freshman Chris Lasprogata are filling the void. In four games since Morris' injury, Schwartz has won 47.8 percent (22-for-46) of his draws and picked up 10 ground balls, and Lasprogata has won 61.5 percent (8-for-13) and scooped up four loose balls. How they fare against Susquehanna's freshman duo of Jake Purnell (52.0 percent and 20 ground balls) and Pierce Mead (50.0 percent and 26 GBs) could determine how many chances Goucher will have on offense.

"I think it will be extremely critical," Kelly said. "If one team is scoring and then getting possession and is able to score again and create a situation where they're able to score three to four goals in a row, that's where it's really important where you're able to win a faceoff and kind of shut off that momentum a little bit. It's definitely going to be a big piece. I think Susquehanna is right about the same mark at the faceoff X. So it'll be a battle on Friday."

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