Stony Brook at UMBC lacrosse: Three things to watch

UMBC enjoys a 12-7 advantage in its America East rivalry with Stony Brook. The Retrievers’ 13-12 decision on April 13, 2013, snapped a three-game losing skid to the Seawolves.

Stony Brook (4-5) dropped a 13-11 decision to St. John’s on Saturday and has alternated wins and losses this season. While the offense ranks 16th in Division I in scoring (11.8 goals per game), the defense ranks 54th out of 67 (11.8). Three goalkeepers have started three games each, with freshman Hayden Johnston (10.75 goals-against average and .479 save percentage) starting the past two contests.

UMBC (4-4) snapped a two-game losing skid with a 17-7 walloping of Mount St. Mary’s on Saturday. The offense has been paced by fifth-year senior attackman Matt Gregoire. The South River graduate is tied for fourth in the country in goals with 26 and ranks sixth in goals per game at 3.3.

Here are a few factors that could play a role in the outcome at Retrievers Stadium in Catonsville on Friday at 7:30 p.m.

1) Limit the Seawolves’ starting attack. Stony Brook’s offense has been fueled by a three-pronged approach from the starting attack. Sophomore Matt Schultz is tied for the team lead in points (32), sophomore Brody Eastwood leads in goals (26), and junior Mike Rooney ranks second in goals (20) and points (29). That trio should garner plenty of attention from the Retrievers, but coach Don Zimmerman said they can’t afford for forget about a midfield headlined by sophomores Challen Rogers (12 goals, 20 assists) and Chris Hughes (10, 12).

“You have to play sound, individual defense,” Zimmerman said of the strategy against the attack. “You can’t chase the heads of their sticks. You have to play good body position, know their strengths and try to take them away. And then you have to play good overall team defense as well and be ready to help each other out, have your heads on a swivel. They’ve got talent in the midfield as well. So you can’t put all of your eggs in their attack basket because they have guys in the midfield that can hurt you as well.”

2) Avoid unnecessary penalties. Only eight teams have enjoyed more extra-man opportunities than the Seawolves, who have capitalized on those situations. They rank third in man-up offense after converting 57.1 percent (20-of-35). Eastwood leads the team with eight man-up goals, and Schultz and Rooney trail at five and three man-up goals, respectively. UMBC’s man-down defense hasn’t been extremely sturdy, having allowed opponents to score on 42.9 percent (12-of-28) of their opportunities. That’s why it would behoove the Retrievers to help the officials keep their yellow flags in their pockets.

“They’re obviously very dangerous, and we don’t want to put ourselves in a situation where we’re giving up too many opportunities,” Zimmerman said. “We have to be disciplined on defense. We can’t overplay. We have to stay in their gloves and stay out of the penalty box.”

3) Make headway on faceoffs. One tactic to quiet an opposing offense is to keep the ball in the sticks of your offense, and UMBC can do that by winning faceoffs. Senior Phil Poe moved into sixth place among the program’s leaders in ground balls with 266 and has won 53.4 percent (94-of-176) of his draws. The problem is that Stony Brook is led by freshman Kyle Rowe, who has won 64.5 percent (140-of-217) of his faceoffs and scooped up 78 ground balls. Zimmerman hopes Poe’s savvy will combat Rowe’s energy.

“You always think that an upperclassman has the advantage of experience over a freshman,” Zimmerman said. “But what I’ve found with faceoffs is you throw all that stuff out the window. It’s basically their guy versus our guy and who’s going to be able to take advantage in that situation. And it’s not only the faceoff men, but the wings. It’s a three-on-three game, and a lot of times the focus is just on the faceoff men. We’ve really been working this week on our wing play as well to try to help Phil.”

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