Mike Preston: Syracuse presents a big challenge for Towson

No. 2 Syracuse usually has one alpha male who is better than anyone else on the field. Or the Orange just wear teams down with a seemingly endless number of midfielders.

But neither is the case this year. Syracuse’s biggest strength is that it simply won’t quit. The Orange have played in 11 one-goal games in 2017 and won nine of them. It would seem that those odds will eventually catch up to Syracuse (13-2).

When?

“They compete. They are always in the fight,” said Towson coach Shawn Nadelen, whose No. 11-seeded Tigers (11-4) play the Orange in an NCAA quarterfinal Sunday at the University of Delaware. “They have done that all season. They stay in the hunt.

“Regardless if they have a big lead or are down by six or seven, they just keep coming at you. That’s a dangerous thing to have.”

The Tigers present challenges to Syracuse as well. Towson is a veteran team, especially on offense, and is led by attackmen Ryan Drenner (27 goals, 24 assists) and Joe Seider (28, 10), and midfielder Mike Lynch (19, six). The teams are somewhat familiar with each other, having scrimmaged in the 2015 and 2016 preseasons.

Towson will be looking for its first win over Syracuse in the program’s Division I era (1980), last earning wins over the Orange in 1972 and 1973.

“With Drenner, he is the quarterback and it’s like having an extra pair of eyes out there,” Nadelen said. “It’s really helpful to have those guys out there because they know what to expect and you know what to expect out of them. They are poised, and it’s good to have that kind of presence on offense with those four-year players.”

Is Michigan calling? Once Duke eliminated Johns Hopkins from postseason play Saturday, you knew the rumors of Blue Jays coach Dave Pietramala going to Michigan would heat up.

Those stories have been circulating for years, even though Pietramala recently completed his 17th season at Hopkins.

But the way the Blue Jays played the last couple of games this season, including the 19-6 beatdown by Duke, has to irritate some Hopkins followers. Before the Blue Devils, the Blue Jays were mauled by rival Maryland, 12-5, and then lost to Ohio State, 15-13. Most disturbing in the Duke loss was the defense, which is supposed to be Pietramala’s specialty because he was one of the best defensemen to ever play the game.

Meanwhile, Michigan appears to have the facilities and support for its program in place. Now, it just needs a coach with the right pedigree.

Time to take over: The one thing missing from Pat Spencer’s game is a dominant presence. He might be the most complete player in college lacrosse, but the sophomore attackman can disappear.

It happened Sunday in Loyola Maryland’s 7-4 playoff loss to Ohio State. The Greyhounds’ offense was horrible most of the afternoon and this was a time for Spencer to take over the game. Instead, he was content to be a regular part of the offense.

He didn’t beg for the ball. He didn’t bang or grind. He didn’t create opportunities for his teammates the way attackman Ben Reeves did for Yale in the Bulldogs’ 11-10 loss to Syracuse on Sunday night. Spencer is still young and has two more years remaining. Hopefully, he grows into that role.

It would also help if Loyola coach Charley Toomey got him an additional two or three offensive middies, too.

Guterding lets his play do the talking: Duke junior attackman Justin Guterding was silent after the Hopkins game, but he made a big statement on the field. Maybe he should have been one of the five finalists for the Tewaaraton Award, given annually to the top player in college lacrosse.

Guterding had four goals and six assists against Hopkins. He has 49 goals and 44 assists this season.

“We’re not about that,” Guterding said. “We’re very team-oriented. I had a good day, but that’s nothing we really talk about or even speak about. I think our team handled ourselves well, and we had a good day.”

Apparently, Guterding has been programmed well by coach John Danowski.

“Individual awards have never been important to me, and we just never talk about them,” Danowski said. “We don’t celebrate them. We don’t ever mention any of those things. It’s a team game, and it’s about the team.

“If somebody wants to celebrate a player they like, yeah, that’s great. But there’s just too much lacrosse that needs to be played and too much teaching that needs to be done to even spend any kind of emotional energy on somebody’s insights or an award.”

Text please: Maryland coach John Tillman is always looking for ways to keep communications lines open with his players. So when he found out the top-seeded Terps were playing Bryant in a first-round game, he reminded them of how the Bulldogs had upset Syracuse in an opening-round game of the 2014 tournament.

But he didn’t say a word. Maryland defeated Bryant, 13-10, Sunday.

“I brought it up,” Tillman said. “I sent them a picture of the final score. So everybody got a text with the final score from the Syracuse game. In their world, I don’t have to say anything, I just text them. They don’t respond anyway. They don’t call me back. There are little things during the week just to keep them dialed in. I think these guys talked about it.”

Tillman, though, should be concerned about the five unanswered goals the Bulldogs scored in the last eight minutes of the game. Hopefully, the Terps remember their poor showings in recent championship games.

Zimmerman excels: Former Hopkins and UMBC coach Don Zimmerman is excellent as a color analyst on ESPN for lacrosse games. Besides being great with the X’s and O’s, he doesn’t go overboard with the hype as ESPN attempts to cover college lacrosse as if it’s a big-time professional sport.

Sometimes, it’s embarrassing.

mike.preston@baltsun.com

Copyright © 2017, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad
43°