As the final whistle sounded Mount St. Mary’s players ran onto the field and smothered goalie Dylan Furnback. Not to be outdone, the Mountaineers coaching staff huddled and hugged each other on the sidelines.
This was indeed a time to celebrate as Mt. St. Mary’s held on to upset host Towson University, 11-10, Saturday before a chilly crowd of 656. The Tigers (0-2) hadn’t lost a Division I game to the Mountaineers since they had to forfeit a victory to them in 1975.
Towson had won the previous 14 but that’s over now.
“I don’t know if this is the first time we’ve beaten them but it is the first time we have beaten them in Baltimore,” said Mt. St. Mary’s Tom Gravante, who is in his 25th season as the Mountaineers head coach. “This was a great game for all and that’s a good team with a good coach. But this is a great win for the history of our program.”
It’s the type of win that will pay off well for the Mountaineers (1-1). They play in the Northeast Conference and few teams on their schedule — with the exception of Johns Hopkins, Georgetown and Delaware — have the national reputation of Towson.
But Gravante now has something extra he can sell recruits when he visits their living rooms. And Mountaineers like midfielders Matt Haggerty (4 goals), Kelly Gouin (3) and attackman Brenden McCarthy (3) now have something to brag about.
They were on the team that beat Towson.
“We knew from the scouting report we had the depth to win our matchups,” said Haggerty. “In the first possession or two we realized they weren’t sliding, that they didn’t respect our middies at all. Maybe that was because of what we did against Delaware. After that we had free range to go to the goal. Our first offense was more of a moving offense, but once we started getting our shorties behind they couldn’t slide.”
The Mountaineers had been in a position the week before to upset Delaware but blew a 4-1 lead in the first quarter by allowing ten in the second before losing to the Blue Hens, 14-8.
They were in a similar position against Towson. The Tigers ate away at a three-goal deficit in the first two quarters to take a 7-6 lead at the half, and then Towson fought back with two goals in the fourth quarter to pull within 11-10 with 6:50 remaining on a goal by midfielder Grant Maloof.
But the Mountaineers hung on despite themselves. They rushed shots in the remaining time despite running a deliberate offense for most of the game. Mt. St. Mary’s was penalized 11 times for violation of the 80-second shot clock.
Gravante, though, just smiled.
“That’s just helping our guys better manage the game,” he said. “We took some shots in the end that weren’t great shots. We got lucky. Sometimes those are going to go the other way. Through the course of the game it is better to be lucky sometimes than good and our luck came at the right time.”
It’s also good to be patient, too, and Towson head coach Shawn Nadalen has to be that way in dealing with the Tigers this season.
Towson is 0-2, with the team also losing to Hopkins to open the season. Nadalen is still trying to figure out how to replace the big three of a year ago — face off specialist Alex Woodall, midfielder Zach Goodrich and attackman Brendan Sunday — who all graduated.
Woodall won 227 face-offs last year, which put him at almost 75 percent. The Tigers lost 14 of 24 against the Mountaineers and were only six of 26 against Hopkins the week before.
Goodrich was one of the best defensive middies in the country and in Towson history, and Mt. St. Mary’s certainly wouldn’t have had as many scoring opportunities Saturday if he was playing.
On offense Towson is still trying to get this group in sync. Last year it was Sunday who was the big scorer with 49 goals and 25 assists. The Tigers also are still figuring things out at goalie. Starter Tyler Canto played slightly more than 47 minutes against the Mountaineers and had just two saves.
Towson finished with only four saves for the game.
“Consistency. We’re very up and down,” said Nadalen. “Our focus and consistency has to become better in our play making and in our processing so that when we step on the field we are ready to play a game in that way. We’ve got some new pieces in play and those guys are just trying to make sure everyone understands their goals. You have to live with the growing pains. Some of it is expected and some of it we can do better. We are continuing to figure out who we are and we have a lot of practice time to figure it out.”