Towson has built a 29-15 advantage in this series against UMBC and has won three of the last four meetings. Nine of the last 11 games in this rivalry have been decided by three goals or less.
The Retrievers (3-3) are coming off a stunning 17-15 loss on Saturday to High Point, which is in only its second year of Division I lacrosse. Pat Young, who ranks second on the team in both goals (11) and assists (six), played a critical role in the last contest between these programs. The sophomore midfielder recorded three goals and one assist in an eventual 12-9 loss on March 19, 2013.
The No. 20 Tigers (5-2) are seeking their best start since 2001 when that squad opened the year with a 10-2 mark and advanced to the NCAA tournament semifinals. They have been bolstered by the play of the defense. Headlined by junior goalkeeper Tyler White, senior defenseman John Fennessy and junior defenseman JoJo Ostrander, the unit has surrendered an average of 6.5 goals in four games since absorbing a 20-4 rout by No. 2 Loyola on Feb. 18.
Here are a few factors that could play a role in the outcome at Johnny Unitas Stadium in Towson on Tuesday at 7 p.m.
1) UMBC’s man-up offense vs. Towson’s man-down defense. The Retrievers have been opportunistic when awarded extra-man chances, converting 43.8 percent (7-of-16) of those situations. That’s good enough to rank 20th in Division I. The Tigers, however, are not too shabby in killing penalties, having snuffed out 75.0 percent (18-of-24) of opponents’ man-up opportunities. That is the 11th-best mark in the country, and coach Shawn Nadelen credits three factors in the unit’s success.
“I think Tyler’s been doing a really good job in the cage in our even sets and our man-down sets,” he said. “You can be successful if your goalie is really good, and I think Tyler’s been doing a decent job in man-down sets. He’s made some saves that probably should be goals at time. I think Coach [Dan] Cocchi has done a good job of preparing our guys defensively to throw some wrinkles at the other team’s man up to disrupt their flow and ability to get comfortable in their sets. And I think the third thing that has happened is the other team has made mistakes – turnovers or poor decisions that have allowed us to be successful.”
2) UMBC’s defense vs. Towson’s Thomas DeNapoli. Five Tigers have compiled at least 10 points thus far, but DeNapoli is the offensive quarterback. The senior attackman leads the team in both assists (13) and points (24). In last year’s contest with the Retrievers, DeNapoli became the first player in school history to post 10 points (seven goals and three assists) since May 8, 1999. UMBC coach Don Zimmerman certainly hasn’t forgotten about DeNapoli’s prowess on the field.
“He is the guy they look to as a catalyst, and he makes a lot happen,” Zimmerman said. “We just have to be aware of him on-the-ball and off-the-ball. They have terrific players, and they’re always looking for him. But if you put all of your eggs in his basket, there are plenty of other guys that can hurt you. We just have to know where he is, play him smart, play him tough and at the same time understand that the other five guys around him are very capable as well.”
3) UMBC’s stamina vs. Towson’s freshness. As mentioned above, the Retrievers will try to bounce back from that loss to High Point. Playing on Tuesday after a Saturday contest can be awfully taxing physically and mentally. Meanwhile, the Tigers haven’t played since a 14-9 dismantling of Navy a week ago and have used the time to heal some injuries and spend a good deal of time studying UMBC. But Nadelen said he doesn’t think the break necessarily gave Towson much of an advantage.
“I think it allowed them to stay competitive over the weekend and play in a game and have that edge,” he said. “It’s kind of like coming off a bye week against a team that doesn’t. There’s usually a little bit of a phase early in the game where the team that had the rest has to get back into game speed. That was a competitive game that UMBC and High Point were in, a high-scoring game. So I’m a lot more concerned about being able to defend against 15 goals.”