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Towson at Mount St. Mary's men's lacrosse: Three things to watch

Towson is 9-1 against Mount St. Mary's all time and has won the past eight meetings, including a 9-1 home rout on March 1, 2014. The Tigers are 1-0 on the road this season, while the Mountaineers are 0-1 at home.

No. 17 Towson (2-1) is seeking three wins in its first four games for the first time under coach Shawn Nadelen and for the first time since 2005. In Sunday's 9-6 victory at Georgetown, junior defenseman Mike Lowe limited Bo Stafford to a single goal on six shots, and the Hoyas senior attackman finished with two turnovers. Stafford had a career-high four goals in Georgetown's 14-12 loss to No. 2 Notre Dame on Feb. 14.

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Mount St. Mary's (1-1) is taking aim at what would be just the program's second 2-1 start since 2000. The team has been buoyed by a veteran defense that has averaged 8.5 caused turnovers, higher than last year's average of 6.6. Senior defenseman Alex Stefkovich, who finished 2014 with nine caused turnovers, leads the way with five, and senior defenseman Kyle O'Brien ranks second with four caused turnovers after forcing 13 last spring.

Here are a few factors that could play a role in the outcome at Waldron Family Stadium in in Emmitsburg at 2 p.m.

1) The Mountaineers offense. After averaging just 5.7 goals per game last season, Mount St. Mary's averaged 10.5 goals in its first two games. Surprisingly, the team's top six scorers are three sophomores, one senior, one junior and one freshman. Freshman attackman Mike Moynihan scored three goals in an 11-8 victory at Virginia Military Institute, and sophomore attackman Spencer Smith had a career-high four in Tuesday's 11-10 loss to Delaware. That kind of diversity makes an offense tough to scout, but coach Tom Gravante knows the offense will have its hands full against a Tigers defense renowned for its zone schemes.

“We know they’re a good team,” he said. “They’re probably better on defense, more aggressive than Delaware. This is a team that shut down a top-five team  that has been a top-five team for the last 15, 20 years. They limited Johns Hopkins to five goals. … I haven’t looked at the stats. I just know that they beat them, 7-5, and that says a lot.”

2) The Tigers offense. Outside of the top four scorers  sophomore attackman Joe Seider (seven goals and two assists), junior attackman Spencer Parks (5, 4), redshirt senior midfielder Andrew Hodgson (7, 0) and sophomore attackman Ryan Drenner (2, 4)  no other Tiger has more than two points this season. But fifth-year senior attackman Max Siskind, senior midfielder Justin Mabus and junior midfielder Ben McCarty each scored their first goal of the season at Georgetown, and Nadelen said he doesn’t worry where the goals are coming from.

"When guys have good looks from good spots, I want them to cash in on them, and that's the way our offense works," he said. "It's not tailored to just getting Andrew or Spencer or Joe their shots. Everybody's got an opportunity. … Spreading the offense is always great, because then everybody gets a piece of the action, and it's tough to defend against that. I think that's a good thing for our team, but at the end of the day, if we're putting in a high offensive efficiency rate where we're capitalizing on a lot of our possessions, that's the biggest thing. I don't care if it's one guy having seven goals. It's making the most of the opportunities, and I think we have the offensive personnel that can do that."

3) Faceoffs for both teams. The Achilles' heel for both programs has been at the faceoff X. Mount St. Mary's has won just 37.8 percent (17 of 45) of its draws, while Towson is just slightly better at 41.3 percent (26 of 63). Winning faceoffs does not guarantee offensive success, but it can determine time of possession, and that will be critical for both offenses.

"We've got to go at least 50 percent," he said of the team's desired success rate on faceoffs. "I've been saying that for years. I think some of it could be personnel, not getting the right personnel on the field at the right time. Other parts are mechanics in terms of how we approach it. [Against Delaware], the faceoff guys have a natural tendency to grind and turn, and at one time, both of our wings were behind our faceoff guy. We need one guy who's in front of our guy and one guy who's behind our guy. … These are fixable problems, but we have to be more aware of them as guys on the wings. We've got to step that up."

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