According to Towson coach Shawn Nadelen, part of the fun of last season was the little regard that outsiders gave the team before it shocked Drexel and then Penn State to capture the Colonial Athletic Association tournament crown and secure the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.
It was the program’s first CAA tournament championship since 2005 and first NCAA tournament appearance since 2007. With Penn State banned from the league tournament this spring after announcing that it was leaving for the Big Ten after this season, the Tigers – who were picked to finish second in the conference’s regular season – would appear to be in prime position to repeat last year’s showing.
Nadelen acknowledged that there is a determination around the team to show that last spring was not an oddity.
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“I feel like our guys know that they’re capable of doing it, but want to make sure that for Towson, the outside world knows that, ‘Hey, this is where we belong because we’re talented enough. We’ve got a great program and everything that the Towson lacrosse program is, this is where Towson belongs,’” Nadelen said. “It’s not so much trying to prove that we weren’t just a one-hit wonder, but more of a sense that our guys know that we can operate at this level all the time.”
One might think that the team’s success in 2013 has changed expectations in 2014, but Nadelen said the bar has remained the same from one season to the next.
“We’ve always had the expectations of winning the conference championship and winning the NCAA championship,” he said. “We feel that we’re very capable of doing both of those things and that Towson lacrosse is set up to be successful in both of those arenas. So the expectations are there and the standards continue to be high.”
Reaching those goals could be aided significantly by the return of Andrew Hodgson. The senior midfielder – who ranked second on the team last spring in both goals (27) and assists (14) – is battling an ailment that Nadelen was hesitant to discuss.
“He’s kind of week to week,” Nadelen said. “We’ll see how things go.”
Asked if there was a timetable for Hodgson’s return, Nadelen said: “We don’t have one. … The medical staff is keeping us updated with how it’s progressing and stuff. We’ll see how it goes.”
Juniors Greg Cuccinello (23 goals and six assists in 2013) and Justin Mabus (8, 10) are expected to anchor the first midfield and could be joined by either sophomores Ben McCarty (13, 5) or Brian Bolewicki (4, 4). But Nadelen conceded that losing Hodgson for an extended period of time could be difficult.
“It’s tough because Andrew does so much for us,” Nadelen said. “He’s our wing guy on our faceoffs, he’s a man-up guy, he’s one of our better midfielders to play on the defensive end, he’s a great competitor overall – not to mention he was voted captain for his senior year here. So you look at all those things, and you kind of do that ‘Moneyball’ equation. If you think of what Andrew does as one person, you’ve got to find three guys to do it.
"So there’s a little bit of a void there, but it gives an opportunity to the next guy in line, and we might just have to be a little smarter with how much we’re asking of certain guys because Andrew was a guy that could go up and down the field for us and run a lot of miles for us. I don’t think there’s many guys like him on any team. So we’ve just got to manage a little more and maybe be a little more creative with the midfielders.”