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Towson at Johns Hopkins men’s lacrosse: Three things to watch

Senior goalkeeper Josh Miller (seen giving up a goal to Johns Hopkins on March 11, 2017) and his defensive teammates will try to help Towson to a third win in four meetings against the Blue Jays on Saturday.
Senior goalkeeper Josh Miller (seen giving up a goal to Johns Hopkins on March 11, 2017) and his defensive teammates will try to help Towson to a third win in four meetings against the Blue Jays on Saturday. (Kim Hairston / Baltimore Sun)

Towson has won two of the past three meetings with Johns Hopkins, but the Blue Jays have not lost at home to their rival since 1996 – a run of 10 straight home wins against the Tigers. Over that streak, the Blue Jays’ average margin of victory has been 5.7 goals, and only one game was decided by one goal.

The No. 14 Tigers (0-0) have won their past four season openers, including a 7-5 victory over Johns Hopkins in 2015. Towson, which was voted as the preseason favorite to capture its fourth consecutive Colonial Athletic Association title, is led by Zach Goodrich. The junior short-stick defensive midfielder (47 ground balls, 19 caused turnovers, seven goals, one assist in 2017) became only the second non-attackman in conference history to be selected as the preseason Player of the Year since its inception in 2009.

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Saturday's season opener between No. 10 Loyola Maryland and No. 15 Virginia matches up two of the top attackmen in Division I in Greyhounds junior Pat Spencer and Cavaliers sophomore Michael Kraus.

The No. 13 Blue Jays (0-0) have not dropped a season opener since 2007, running their streak to 10 straight. Johns Hopkins, which was voted to finish fourth in the Big Ten, welcomes back its top three scorers in senior attackman Shack Stanwick (26 G, 21 A), junior attackman Kyle Marr (25 G, 20 A) and senior midfielder Joel Tinney (19 G, 9 A). It’s the first time since 2010 that the offense returns its top three point producers from the previous year.

Here are a few factors that could play a role in the outcome at Homewood Field in Baltimore on Saturday at 6 p.m.

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1) Johns Hopkins’ Shack Stanwick. The senior attackman carries a 48-game point streak into Saturday’s game, which is tied for the third-longest active run in Division I. But the Baltimore resident and Boys’ Latin graduate was held to just a single assist and took one shot in the Blue Jays’ 13-8 loss to Towson last season. Limiting Stanwick will be one of the top defensive objectives for the Tigers.

“He’s definitely a facilitator,” Towson coach Shawn Nadelen said. “So we want to make sure that we know where he is so that we can play him pretty soundly when he has the ball in his stick. He’s adept at feeding the ball and creating opportunities and getting shooting opportunities. So we’ve got to be disciplined when he does have the ball. He can be a dual or triple threat from that position. So we’ve got to be poised when we face him.”

2) Towson’s Alex Woodall. The junior faceoff specialist played a key role in that Tigers victory. The Annapolis resident and St. Mary’s graduate won 16 of 25 draws, scooped up nine ground balls, scored two goals and assisted on another. Woodall did not face Johns Hopkins senior Hunter Moreland in that game, but Blue Jays coach Dave Pietramala knows that whoever is in must hold his own against Woodall.

Terps coach John Tillman has spent time researching and talking to other coaches about repeating, but the Maryland focus isn’t on defending, but going on the offensive.

“That’s an area that we’re going to need to be better in and in this game in particular,” Pietramala said. “The group that does a good job there, that has a lot to do with the tempo of the game. So that will be a key factor in this game. The fact that [Woodall] had nine ground balls in that game and won some important faceoffs, that changed the face of the whole game. And then you add to that the three points in that game, I think he was a big part of important moments in last year’s game.”

3) Momentum. As mentioned above, Towson has won two of the past three meetings and parlayed last year’s victory into a march to the NCAA tournament semifinals for the first time since 2001. On the flip side, Johns Hopkins limped to an 8-7 record and a first-round exit from the NCAA postseason for the second year in a row. ESPN analyst Quint Kessenich, who will be part of the broadcast crew for Saturday’s game, is intrigued to see which team will be more driven.

“When you think about Towson, they’ve been CAA champs three years in a row, went to the final four last year and the quarterfinals in 2016,” he said. “They have all this postseason success, and this is a Hopkins team that has had back-to-back 8-7 years where they haven’t won a playoff game. So it’s a real interesting dynamic.”

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