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Mount St. Mary's goalie Steph Rurkowski gives the Mountaineers high hopes to remain among the most competitive teams in the Northeast Conference when they open league play next Friday.

The senior from New York has saved 50 percent of the shots she's faced this season. At the end of last week, her 52.6 save percentage ranked sixth in Division I.

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Last week, she had 12 saves in a 12-11 loss to Niagara and then had 11 in an 18-11 win at St. Bonaventure. She saved 73.3 percent of the shots she faced against the Bonnies. That earned her a second NEC Defensive Player of the Week honor this spring.

"Emotionally, she is just in a great place," Mountaineers coach Lauren Schwarzmann said. "If she makes a great save or the ball ends up in the back of the net, she moves on to the next play really well. I've seen a lot of growth in her and her maturity as a senior and the leader of the defense."

With Rurkowski averaging around 10 saves per game, she has kept the Mountaineers in most of their games this month. Other than the win over St. Bonaventure, a 16-9 loss to Longwood — in which Rurkowksi had 16 saves — and a rough outing Wednesday in which they lost to George Mason 15-4, the Mountaineers have had four one-goal games. They won one, 8-7 over Manhattan in overtime, but have a 2-7 record.

"Steph's been a huge contributor in keeping us competitive," Schwarzmann said, "and while our record doesn't reflect that, I think it does give us the positivity and enthusiasm we need heading into our conference because that's our second season and that's what truly matters in the scheme of things."

The Mountaineers host Detroit Sunday before welcoming Bryant, the two-time defending conference champion, for their NEC opener on April, 8. Last spring, the Mountaineers beat Bryant, 9-8 in overtime, during the regular season. Rurkowski had 12 saves.

Johns Hopkins, Towson continue intense rivalry: Johns Hopkins and Towson have developed one of the most intense local rivalries in women's lacrosse in recent years with just 1.75 goals separating them over the past four seasons.

The Blue Jays have won five straight times, but three of those wins have come by one goal, including last season's 11-10 overtime victory. Four of the past six games have been decided by a single goal, including Towson's last win, 11-10, in 2010.

"It's always a great game, a great crosstown rivalry," said Johns Hopkins coach Janine Tucker, whose team will host this year's showdown Saturday at 1 p.m. "It's always a fun, high-energy game. No matter what anyone's record is, it's always a fun game to be a part of."

The rivalry began in 1976. The Blue Jays hold a 14-8 edge in the series, but they come into this year's game fairly evenly matched once again. The Blue Jays (8-4) are ranked No. 19 in the Inside Lacrosse media poll and the Tigers (7-2) are No. 20.

Towson has been especially effective this season with its zone defense, allowing just 6.33 goals per game — fifth best in Division I.

"I think, just watching a lot of film on them, that teams get themselves into problems reacting to Towson's defense rather than staying calm and trying to exploit where there are openings," Tucker said, "so our focus this week has been on understanding what Towson is trying to do with their zone and how we can very patiently try to break it down and then strike when we find openings."

The Blue Jays' offense averages 11.67 goals per game to Towson's 9.44 and has taken 139 more shots. About a third of their goals are assisted, showing that deliberate approach they'll need against the Tigers.

The Tigers don't make it easy. They've held eight opponents under 10 goals, allowing only No. 2 Florida more in a 15-7 loss. They defeated Loyola, 9-5, while the Blue Jays lost to the Greyhounds 8-7 in double overtime.

The Blue Jays, who have lost three one-goals games including two in double overtime, also have a stingy zone. Theirs is ranked 13th in Division I and has allowed only seven opponents to score in double figures.

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Quick hits: Maryland's Taylor Cummings ranks third in Division I in caused turnovers with 2.75 per game and 13th with 5.13 draw controls. … The Terps rank third in scoring margin, winning by an average of 8.63 goals. … Loyola's Maddy Lesher is seventh in ground balls with 3.67 per game. …Twelve Johns Hopkins players scored in Saturday's 17-3 win over Furman.

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