The Towson men's lacrosse team's most challenging win of 2014 may also have been its most satisfying.
Trailing 5-0 in the first quarter, the No. 20 Tigers persisted and persevered as they emerged with an 11-8 win over Delaware at Johnny Unitas Stadium in Towson on Saturday night.
Towson improved to 7-2 overall and 1-0 in the Colonial Athletic Association and extended its winning streak to six games, the program's longest winning streak since 2004 when that squad won eight straight games.
An announced crowd of 1,076 watched the Tigers overcome an 8-4 deficit at halftime by scoring all seven goals of the third and fourth quarters. They tied the game for the first time since it was scoreless when senior attackman Max Siskind collected a rebound off a save that Blue Hens sophomore goalkeeper Conor Peaks made on junior midfielder Greg Cuccinello's shot, and deposited the ball into the net with one minute, 55 seconds left in the third period.
Sophomore midfielder Ben McCarty (South Carroll) gave Towson its first lead when he raced down the right alley and put a shot between Peaks' legs with 10:25 left in the fourth quarter. Goals by senior attackman Devin Grimaldi and freshman midfielder Ryan Drenner (Westminster) cemented the win for the Tigers.
"They really came at us hard," coach Shawn Nadelen said. "We weren't ready for it mentally. We weren't as focused we should have been. Huge, huge turnaround in the second half for our guys. I couldn't be more impressed and more pleased with our guys, to regroup at halftime and come out of the locker room ready to execute the way that we know we're capable of doing.
"I just continue to get impressed by my team and what they do on the field."
The rally was similar to last year's meeting between the teams, in which Towson overcame a 6-3 deficit in the third quarter and won, 7-6, in overtime.
Junior midfielder Greg Cuccinello, who had four points on two goals and two assists, said the players never lost faith in their ability to pull off the comeback against Delaware (5-4, 0-2).
"As an offense, you never think you're out of anything," he said. "Four goals is really not a lot with 30 minutes left to play. We kind of expected them to come out hot in the first half, considering that we kind of stole one from them last year, scoring at the buzzer and then winning in overtime.
"And also, they're 0-1 in conference, so we knew they were going to come out fired up. We knew in the second half, we could regroup and get it back on."
As much as the offense deserved credit for mounting the rally, the victory was also made possible by improved play by the defense and faceoff unit.
Freshman Alec Burckley replaced sophomore Conor Pequigney (1 of 5 and one ground ball) and went 7-for-16 on faceoffs. Although he picked up just two ground balls, Burckley battled junior Tyler Barbarich (13 of 21, seven ground balls) enough to give his teammates a chance to pounce on loose balls.
The Tigers collected 23 ground balls to Delaware's six in the second half.
Towson's porous defense also became oppressive after halftime. The Blue Hens went from 14 shots in the first half to just six in the second as they were befuddled by the Tigers' zone defense.
"We obviously had a zone in our back pocket, ready to use it at all times," said senior defenseman John Fennessy, who shut out sophomore attackman Tyler Aunon. "We started out in our man look and unfortunately, it wasn't clicking. In the first half, we tried to get into it, but we couldn't get into it at the right moment. Once we got into the locker room, we talked about it, and we knew what we were going to do.
"We know our zone is very effective to limit their outside shooters and protect the inside. As long as we knew we could limit their outside shots and their playmaking above, we'd have a chance, and that's exactly what we did."
Junior midfielder Justin Mabus led all scorers with career highs in both points (five) and assists (four). Drenner added two goals and one assist.
Freshman midfielder Steve DeLargy paced Delaware with two goals and one assist, but coach Bob Shillinglaw rued a missed opportunity.
"Obviously, we're disappointed with the end result," he said. "I thought in the first half, we played extremely well. Had them on their heels. Offensively, we seemed to be going on all cylinders. They began zoning us, which took a lot of the energy that we had. Didn't execute well in the zone. Slowed our pace down."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun