According to notes provided by Towson’s sports information department, the Tigers are among the 20 youngest teams in Division I. That youth showed up in Tuesday night’s 14-9 victory over visiting Navy.
Freshman attackman Joe Seider scored two goals, freshman midfielder Ryan Drenner contributed a goal and an assist, and freshman midfielder Mike Lynch scored once. Add a pair of freshman short-stick defensive midfielders in Jack Adams (one ground ball) and Matt Wylly and freshman long-stick midfielder Tyler Mayes (one ground ball and two caused turnovers), and that means that 40 percent of Towson’s 15-member freshman class took the field at Johnny Unitas Stadium against the Midshipmen.
Having that group produce is a benefit, according to junior midfielder Greg Cuccinello, who scored three goals in the win.
“We’ve got a lot of freshmen playing for us, and they’re all extremely talented,” he said. “It’s tough in your first couple college games to really play to your full potential. I think especially Joe and Ryan Drenner, those kids are really stepping up and really just finding their groove and playing with more confidence.”
Seider, a Hereford graduate who has played in all seven games and started in five, leads the Tigers (5-2) in goals with 12 and ranks second in points with 15. Drenner, a Westminster graduate who has started in six contests, is tied with junior midfielder Justin Mabus for second on the team in assists with seven and ranks third in points with 13.
Seider credited the veterans with mentoring the younger players and trying to encourage them in practice and games.
“In the attack, [senior] Thomas [DeNapoli] really coaches us up,” Seider said. “I know that in the midfield, Mabus and Cooch [Cuccinello] try to show Drenner and Lynch and the other freshmen that play to be confident, to be sure that you’re doing the right thing, to do it 100 percent. Don’t feel unsure about yourself. And I think that really helped us going into the game early as freshmen. Just know you’re out there for a reason, and it gives you confidence.”
The goal by Lynch (Boys’ Latin) in the first quarter was the first of his career and one that the team had been waiting for, Seider said.
“It’s exciting,” he said. “I know the whole team has been pretty much yelling at him to score more.”
*While the offense garnered many of the headlines, the defense did a decent job in holding a Navy offense to four goals below its season average. Towson senior defenseman John Fennessy did a commendable job against senior attackman Sam Jones. The Severna Park graduate had entered the contest leading the Midshipmen in both goals (15) and assists (10), but finished with just zero goals on two shots and two assists. “We pride ourselves a lot on individual defense,” said Fennessy, who registered one ground ball and two caused turnovers. “But you can never say there’s just one guy on defense. It’s seven guys acting as one and playing together. We’re a young group trying to improve and improve and improve. Obviously, any matchup I take, I try to give it my all. Don’t let him score, shut him down from passing the ball and shooting the ball and so on. All in all, our whole philosophy is just team defense. Like I said, we’re a young team, a young group just trying to work together and get better.”
*One play that may have foretold the Tigers’ positive result was a Navy own goal in the second quarter. I neglected to ask coach Rick Sowell about what freshman defenseman Matt Rees (Boys’ Latin) saw when he tossed the ball back toward the net that sophomore goalkeeper John Connors had vacated just 2 minutes, 3 seconds into the second quarter, but Towson coach Shawn Nadelen was more than happy for a bit of good fortune. “Any goal for us is a good thing,” he said with a smile. “We’ll take it any way that happens. It looked like a lot of problems in the first half for Navy. I didn’t even actually see what happened. I just saw the ball dribbling into the goal. When that happens, you feel like things are kind of going your way. You get some confidence and just want to stay on the attack.”
*Tuesday’s game was the first midweek game of the season for the Midshipmen (3-3), who pulverized Patriot League foe Lafayette, 11-3, on Friday night. But Sowell dismissed any notion that the team was physically or mentally fatigued against the Tigers. “We’re on spring break. We were excited to play. We come off a couple nice wins. Why not play Tuesday?” he asked rhetorically. “Navy’s been playing this game for a number of years. So it’s not as if the veterans hadn’t played a midweek game before. So I don’t know how much that factors into it. You’ve got to be ready to play whether it’s midweek, weekend, day game, night game, on the road, home, neutral site, bad weather. Good teams win in every situation and every environment. So we still have a little work to do.” Senior long-stick midfielder Pat Kiernan agreed – with one caveat. “I don’t think that’s an issue,” he said. “I think all the guys on our team did the right things on the days in between. It’s just weird because we’ve been in Saturday-to-Saturday games. Maybe that had something to do with it, the different change of pace. But in terms of physically, we were ready to go. That’s how I felt.”