Kristen Gaudian

Senior attacker Kristen Gaudian and the JMU lacrosse team have put together a strong season. The Dukes have posted at 15-1 record with one game left.

With the postseason quickly approaching, JMU lacrosse is in prime position to compete for not only a CAA title, but a national championship. The Dukes are ranked No. 4 in the nation and first in conference standings with an undefeated record in CAA play and are 15-1 overall.

It appears the only team with a realistic chance to compete with JMU in the upcoming CAA tournament is 14-2 Towson, which is ranked No. 6 in the country. The Dukes and Tigers have established themselves as the class of the conference, as middling Hofstra is the only other team in the CAA with a winning record.

Either JMU or Towson has won the CAA tournament every year since 2008, and it’s likely that will continue this season. The Dukes appear to be the favorites to win the third conference title in four seasons, but the Tigers — seeking their seventh title in 11 years — won’t be an easy out.

This season, the Dukes have been dominant on both ends of the field and lead the CAA in goals per game and are tied for fewest goals per game. It’s no surprise the Tigers are second and tied for first, respectively, in those categories.

It’s clear JMU and Towson are the conference’s two best teams, and goal differential reveals it’s not even close. The Dukes are outscoring opponents by a margin of 7.5 goals per game, the Tigers are winning by 6.2 and Hofstra is a distant third at 1.1, while the other four teams have let in more goals than they’ve scored.

Towson leads the CAA in shooting percentage and save percentage. While the Tigers are more efficient than JMU in both categories, the Dukes have taken far more shots, which explains the lower shooting percentage despite more goals made by JMU.

As the season winds down, goals will be tougher to come by, and teams that shoot more fare better than teams that make shots at a high clip. In the postseason, shooting a high-volume of shots is more likely to carry over than a high scoring rate.

Last year, JMU averaged 28.6 shots per game in the regular season and 26 in the postseason. Meanwhile, Towson shot just 36 percent in last year’s postseason overtime loss to Elon after shooting nearly 48 percent of shots on the season. If the Tigers made 48 percent of their 25 shots, they would’ve scored 12 goals instead of nine and come away with a win instead of a season-ending loss.

This year, the Tigers are scoring on 50.7 percent of shots in wins and 40.4 percent in losses, which proves the key to taking down Towson is taking away the team’s easy goals. Slowing

Towson’s offense is easier said than done, as the only two teams to do it were ranked No. 1 and 16 in the country when they beat the Tigers.

It’s simple math: Towson leads the conference in save percentage at 53 percent, so the Dukes have to shoot a high volume to ensure that, while many shots will be saved, enough will go in to keep the team in front. If JMU shoots the same amount of shots as Towson, chances are the Tigers’ CAA-best defense will allow fewer goals than the Dukes.

The season is quickly winding down, and as fate would have it, JMU will conclude the regular season on the road in Towson. This will be a revealing game that could decide who has the No. 1 seed in the CAA tournament.

Fortunately for the Dukes, the conference tournament will be held in Harrisonburg, so if — or when — the teams meet again, JMU will have home-field advantage. There might not be an obvious favorite between the two, but if scoring volume leads to victory, the Dukes should come out on top.

Contact James Faris at farisja@dukes.jmu.edu. For more lacrosse coverage, follow the sports desk on Twitter @TheBreezeSports.

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