Today’s preview of Towson is the second installment of a week-long series taking a look at each of the seven Division I men's programs in this state in order of their finish from last season. Check back Wednesday for a preview of UMBC. The Sun’s lacrosse preview is slated to be published on Feb. 17.
Overview: The Tigers’ 3-10 record was humbling and matched the program’s worst mark since 2000. Towson went 1-5 in the Colonial Athletic Association, finished sixth in the seven-team conference, and failed to qualify for the league tournament for the second time in four years. It was the first time the team finished with a sub-.500 record since joining the conference in 2002. Those results led to the departure of head coach Tony Seaman and the promotion of Shawn Nadelen from defensive coordinator to head coach.
Reason for optimism: A defense that finished 2011 allowing an average of 8.2 goals, which ranked 15th in Division I, returns of a pair of starters in sophomore John Fennessy and senior John Kenyon. Finding replacements to fill the voids created by the graduation of defenseman Marc Ingerman and short-stick defensive midfielder Peter Mezzanotte will be a priority, but Nadelen said the zone defense – a staple last season for several teams, including national champion Virginia – will remain a fixture of the unit’s schemes. “Zone defense, I think, is a good thing to always have in your repertoire as a defense,” he said. “It just causes an offense to change things up at times. So I think a zone defense is always going to be in the mix here at Towson, and we can utilize it at any time.”
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Reason for pessimism: The offensive production dropped by more than a goal per game between 2010 (9.3) and 2011 (7.9) as the Tigers struggled to put shots on net. The unit’s inability to challenge opposing goalkeepers frustrated Seaman, and now it’s up to Nadelen and offensive coordinator Anthony Gilardi (formerly of Navy) to repair those issues. Nadelen said the key to improving the offense is emphasizing fundamentals and having the players work on their skills and the offensive sets over and over again. “It’s repetition, but doing it within situations that are going to be pretty much what we will see in a game,” he said. “Coach Gilardi has done a great job of devising shooting drills and timing and passing and feeding drills to make sure our guys are in the spots where we think we’re going to be able to get our shots within our offense. We are getting a ton of reps at that.”
Keep an eye on: Nadelen may have a defensive background, but he isn’t shy about sharing his offensive philosophy with Gilardi and the players on that side of the field. Perhaps because of his knowledge of Division I defenses, Nadelen said he wants the players to take advantage of fastbreaks and attack the net when the opportunities arise. “We want our guys to challenge another team’s defense and in any set, whether it be an odd-man situation or a transition look or in even sets, we want to make sure our guys are 100 percent confident in knowing that they pretty much have the green light to have an opportunity to advance toward the cage and really make a quick decision within a gap within the defense,” he said. “They can do that, and we’re not just going to be tremendously controlling of the ball. We’re making sure the guys understand the value of the ball and possession, but we’re giving them some freedom and creativity within their own abilities to – when they see an opportunity – to maximize those.”
What he said: Although Seaman has his plate full with his duties as the general manager of the Major League Lacrosse’s Denver Outlaws and a special advisor to athletic director Mike Waddell, he maintains an open-door policy for Nadelen, who is appreciative of his mentor’s relationship. “He always tells me that he’s available to call and talk to whenever need be,” Nadelen said. “There have been times when I’ve had to reach out to him just to ask him questions about the administrative side of things or just handling the team. He’s not only a coach to our players, but he’s also a coach to myself and the other assistants here at Towson. He would always teach us the proper way to handle situations and to communicate with the players. Into the fall and spring, there are definitely times when I think back to those times, and I’ll also reach out to him just to see his perspective as well because he’s a man who I respect dearly and I definitely value his opinion.”