Towson coach Shawn Nadelen knew the sort of team he had in the preseason.
The defense was inexperienced and certainly wasn't deep. And so the Tigers needed to rely upon goalie Andrew Wascavage perhaps more than even he realized.
"Whether he knew it or not [before the season], he's been extremely impressive," Nadelen said. "Tonight, going against another stingy defense — which is something we addressed — I think he took that as a challenge. I think he continues to prove and has shown that he is definitely one of the best goalies in the country."
Andrew Hodgson and Justin Mabus both had two goals and two assists for the Tigers (6-5, 2-0 Colonial Athletic Association), who moved above .500 for the first time all season.
It was the third victory in a row overall for Towson, which remains one of three CAA teams (along with Drexel and Penn State) without a loss in league play. The Tigers must face both teams on the road next month in a stretch certain to define Towson's regular season title hopes.
Saturday's triumph, the Tigers' first over a ranked team since defeating Hofstra last season, bolstered those chances. But it was completely dissimilar to last year's meeting when Towson erased a six-goal deficit in the final 12 minutes and then won it overtime.
A less riveting, more methodical approach suited the Tigers just fine.
Tied at 3 at the half, Towson got goals from sophomore Ben McCarty (South Carroll) and freshman Brian Bolewicki (Calvert Hall) in the opening minutes of the third quarter. Hodgson added a man-up goal later in the period to provide what felt like a comfortable lead at the time.
Wascavage was ultimately the difference, and his gaudy save total was the one point Hofstra coach Seth Tierney knew didn't favor his team.
It was, however, a muddled day for the Pride (6-4, 1-2), who seemed to wait for something to ignite their offense — and nothing did until it was too late.
"I'm not blaming it on shooting," Tierney said. "I'm blaming it on not getting maybe great looks at the goal, and that's offense. We have to score more than six goals to win a lacrosse game."
Despite Hofstra's inert offense, Wascavage played a role, just as he has all season for the Tigers.
After finding themselves with an 0-3 record to open the season, Towson added to its midseason surge Saturday and firmly sits in the middle of the conference title race. And just as Nadelen predicted in the preseason, Wascavage is a vital part of Towson's ability to push through a tough start.
Wascavage now has 152 saves against 98 goals allowed, a save percentage of .606 as the Tigers held their third straight opponent to less than 10 goals.
Over the last three games, Wascavage's save percentage is .691, and Saturday might stand as his stoutest outing of the year.
Facing a Hofstra team allowing less than seven goals a game, Wascavage shrugged off a tighter margin of error and helped limit the Pride to two extra-man goals over a 35-minute stretch covering nearly all of the second half before Hofstra scored with 12 seconds remaining.
"I try not to let another team dictate how we're going to play," Wascavage said. "I believe in my guys and our defense. The past couple games we've been improving tremendously. We're holding teams pretty much under 10 goals a lot of the season now, and I think we're one of the best defenses when we bring it all together."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun