Tufts at Stevenson: Three things to watch

These teams met last year in the regular season with Tufts outlasting a 1-hour, 45-minute lightning delay and Stevenson to emerge with a 14-13 win. The Jumbos fell hard in the Division III title game to Salisbury last May, but they are 3-0 and ranked No. 2 in the latest United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association poll. The No. 10 Mustangs are 5-2, but have dropped two of their last three contests to then-No. 9 Lynchburg and No. 3 Cortland. Here are a few factors that could play a role in the outcome at Mustang Stadium in Owings Mills on Tuesday night.

1) Take advantage of the man advantage. Stevenson has struggled on extra-man opportunities, converting just 5-of-45 chances (11.1 percent) and going 0-of-15 in the last three games. Tufts has allowed 11 man-up situations in three games, but perhaps more importantly, opponents have scored seven times. That might be the right remedy for the Mustangs. “That would be nice,” coach Paul Cantabene acknowledged. “I think our man-up has actually played much better. We just haven’t scored. We’ve gotten some really good opportunities, but we just haven’t scored. So it’s better. Before, we were struggling just to get shots. Now we’re getting some really good shots. We’ve just got to put the ball away.”

2) Solve Tufts on clears. The Jumbos are one of the better disciplined teams in the nation as evidenced by opponents succeeding at just 69.0 percent (49-of-71) on clears. That means more offensive possessions for the offense, but Cantabene pointed out that Tufts is only clearing the ball at a 75.8 success rate (47-of-62). “So it’s kind of going both ways for them,” Cantabene said. “It’s early in the season. We did notice that against Stevens [Saturday], they were 10-manning [using a 10-man ride] a little bit. So we’ll prepare for it.”

3) Stretch those legs. Stevenson and Tufts played in one of the more entertaining contests last year, frequently turning turnovers and groundballs into fast breaks and transition opportunities. It’s a style that fits both teams and is a welcome departure for the Mustangs, who have been forced to play a slower pace by opponents. “Tufts likes to get up and down and increase the tempo, which is the total opposite of what Cortland likes to do,” Cantabene said, referring to the team’s 13-9 loss to the Red Dragons Saturday. “And I think that will help us, too. We’re used to playing that style and we like playing that style. This should be a little bit more of a wide-open game than the past games we’ve been playing.”

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