The vibe flowing from the Towson locker room at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis after the Tigers’ 8-7 win against Navy wasn’t just tinged with relief. There also seemed to be a sense of defiance.
That emotion was evident in the postgame comments of a pair of Towson players -- sophomore attackman Cory Dobyns and senior goalkeeper Andrew Wascavage.
“I believe we’re one of the best teams in this country, and we have some of the best coaches in the country,” said Dobyns, who recorded two goals and one assist in the victory over the Midshipmen. “When we’re all meshing together and we’re all collectively playing as one, we’re a great team.”
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Added Wascavage: “Everybody’s got a chip on their shoulder about how it’s gone so far. We all know we want to win and that we have the drive and intensity and toughness to buckle down when we need to and come back and fight back and hold off for that one goal there and win.”
The Tigers (3-4) opened the season with three consecutive losses, and a 10-9 overtime setback to Marist last Friday night might have sent the team into a deeper downward spiral. But Tuesday night’s win against Navy just might be the turning point Towson desperately needs as it prepares to meet No. 20 Duke this Saturday.
“I think this gives us confidence,” Nadelen said. “We believe in ourselves, but we’ve just got to learn to do it consistently, and that’s something we have to continue to try to find ways to do that. Hopefully, our guys just don’t fall back and realize that we beat Navy and that’s a great thing and settle into just kind of being complacent. We’ve got to keep that edge, we’ve got to keep that fire. We turn it around and we’ve got to head down to Duke on Friday. They beat [No. 14] Loyola and they’ve got a tough game [Wednesday] against [No. 4] North Carolina. The road doesn’t get any easier, but I think the confidence and our understanding of ourselves and what we’re capable of hopefully allows the guys to hold each other accountable and also us to hold them accountable for the high standards we have.”
The Tigers figure to be the decided underdog against the Blue Devils, who upended reigning national champion Loyola last Friday night. But by virtue of its presence in the Colonial Athletic Association, the team still has an opportunity to finish in the top four and advance to the conference tournament – the winner of which will earn the league’s automatic qualifier to the NCAA tournament.
“We’re sitting at 3-4 and we haven’t had a single CAA game and that’s on our mind – winning the CAA,” Dobyns said. “That’s going to come soon after we go down to Duke.”
* Nadelen admitted that he wasn’t sure what to expect from his players after that stunning loss to Marist. While the first quarter was disappointing, Nadelen’s hopes were raised by what he saw in the final three quarters. “I think for our guys, rebounding from a tough overtime loss to Marist, I think it gives us confidence,” he said. “It showed the coaching staff that we’re able to rebound and it really showed us what we’re made of. With some of the mistakes we made and with the way we responded with our practices after Marist, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect in this game. And as I told the guys, ‘Watch out because now I know.’ Now I know what to expect the level of practice and competition in games and all those things. We’ve really got to stay at that level to finish out our season.”
* Wascavage doesn’t have the goals-against average (9.14) to attract much attention, but that’s also a by-product of the overall defense. His save percentage of .558 may be a truer indicator of his talent as it currently surpasses those of Penn State junior Austin Kaut (.490), Princeton freshman Matt O’Connor (.494) and North Carolina freshman Kieran Burke (.505). Nadelen did his best to promote his goalie. “He’s been unbelievable all year,” Nadelen said. “He’s really been our guy that allows us to be in the position that we’re in tonight with double-digit saves pretty much in every game. I feel bad because wins and losses don’t promote him as being one of the top guys in the country, but if you look at his numbers and how he performs inside and on outside shots, I think he’s one of the best guys out there.”
* The Tigers have been riding the coattails of junior attackman Thomas DeNapoli (19 goals and three assists) and Dobyns (12, 1), but the third attackman spot has been an inconsistent source. Sophmore Justin Mabus has five assists and zero goals, junior Paul Danko Jr. has scored once, and junior Devin Grimaldi scored his first goal of the season against Navy. While Grimaldi’s goal tied that game against the Midshipmen at 7-7, Nadelen wasn’t quite ready to declare Grimaldi the candidate to fill the attack’s vacancy. “I don’t know if he solidified it one way or the other,” Nadelen said. “I think it’s still an area of concern for us. I know we struggled with Justin early on. Devin’s got to continue to do things well.”
* Navy’s season has taken on a one-step-forward, two-steps-back feel to it. After opening the season with victories over VMI and Detroit, the team dropped three in a row to Fairfield, Georgetown and Bucknell before bouncing back last Saturday with a 12-11 decision against Lafayette. Tuesday night’s loss to Towson was another reminder of how uneven 2013 has been for the Midshipmen. “It just goes to show the top of the world and the bottom of the world just aren’t that far apart,” coach Rick Sowell said. “As good as you feel after the win on Saturday, you feel that bad because you couldn’t get it done on Tuesday. That fourth quarter, we didn’t score a goal, but there’s certainly a different feel with the guys. We’re battling, we’re doing a lot of good things, and as I told them, I think we’re close. I told our guys early in the season that the way our sport is, there’s a lot of close games, and we’re going to play our fair share, and I suspect we’re going to keep playing in them. Hopefully, the tide will turn and we can win our fair share of them.”