One of the questions Towson's lacrosse team faced was replacing graduate JoJo Ostrander, who had emerged as the team's top defenseman. But the defense returned six of its other seven starters on that side of the field, and the unit's strength was prominent in Friday night's 11-2 pasting of visiting Mercer in the season opener for both teams at Johnny Unitas Stadium.
"We're fortunate our defense – minus one guy who graduated – has everyone back," coach Shawn Nadelen said Monday afternoon. "The cohesion is there, and they're playing well together as a unit. But we know it's the first game. We know there's a long road ahead of us. So we're going to be challenged much more in this upcoming game against Mount [St. Mary's] and going on from there. Our defense is comfortable with each other, they're confident in each other, and they understand how to play our system and what we expect out of them. So it's good to see those guys continue to play hard for each other."
The Tigers are anchored by redshirt senior goalkeeper Tyler White, senior defensemen Mike Lowe, Andrew Cordes and Nick Gorman, a pair of short-stick defensive midfielders in junior Jack Adams and sophomore Adam Ceribelli, and junior long-stick midfielder Tyler Mayes. Many of them are in their third and fourth years under the tutelage of defensive coordinator Dan Cocchi and well-versed in the team's schemes.
"I'm a big believer in that all seven guys have to be on the same page and work together and understand their individual roles within the team concept," Nadelen said. "Coach Cocchi has done a terrific job. I think our defensive team has embraced his mentality and what we want to do defensively. The veteran group that we have has been with us since they were pups and has grown up into a good group. They're hard-working guys who like to play hard and play for each other to get the best result we can."
The defense was overpowering in the win against the Bears, not allowing a shot in the first 17 minutes. Towson was just 24 seconds from surrendering just one goal since moving up to the Division I level for the 1980 campaign, but Nadelen said the unit is far from being in midseason form.
"We've got a couple young [short-stick defensive midfielders] in [freshman] Zach Goodrich and [sophomore] Jake Hager in the mix there that need some more experience," he said. "We're working in [freshman] Chad Patterson at close defense, too. So I think we're definitely a ways away, but I think we're further along than we were at this point last year."