These two teams have never met in the NCAA tournament, but have split two meetings with High Point pulling off a 9-7 upset on Feb. 8, 2013 and Towson grabbing an 11-8 victory on Feb. 8, 2014. The Panthers are 2-4 on the road, while the Tigers are 3-3 at home. The winner of this game will move on to face No. 1 seed Notre Dame (10-2) on Saturday at 5 p.m.
High Point (10-6), which is making its first appearance in the NCAA postseason in just its third year as a Division I program, knocked off No. 2 seed Mercer and No. 1 seed Richmond to capture the Southern Conference tournament crown. The 21st-ranked offense in the country is fueled by the attack trio of sophomore Michael LeClair (Mount St. Joseph) and juniors Matt Thistle and Dan Lomas. LeClair leads the team in assists (25) and points (51), Lomas leads in goals (43), and Thistle ranks second in goals (29) and assists (20).
Towson (11-5), which is making its second appearance in the last three NCAA playoffs after capturing the Colonial Athletic Association tournament championship in 2013 and 2015, is 3-6 as an unseeded team in the tournament. The team's strength lies in a defense that is tied for second in the nation in fewest goals per game (7.4). Redshirt junior goalkeeper Tyler White ranks second in goals-against average (7.24) and seventh in save percentage (.575).
Here are a few factors that could play a role in the outcome of this NCAA tournament play-in game at Johnny Unitas Stadium in Towson on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.
1) Limiting Lomas. As mentioned above, the Panthers have three players with more than 45 points each, and the one to watch out for is Lomas. With four goals in his team's 9-8 double overtime win against Richmond, Lomas eclipsed his previous single-season record of 42 goals. Although High Point and the Tigers did not meet this spring, Towson has not forgotten that Lomas has scored six goals on 12 shots in the teams' series. The Tigers like to go to a zone defense, but when they switch to man-to-man, expect to see a lot of senior defenseman JoJo Ostrander, an All-CAA first-team selection, matched up against Lomas.
"Dan has been a big part of their offense from the minute he stepped onto their campus," coach Shawn Nadelen said. "He's going to see hopefully a lot of all of our guys. He draws that much attention because he's that good. He's someone you've really got to pay attention to. So all of our guys are going to be aware of who he is and how you have to play him."
2) Gunning for Geisler. While Towson can rely on White to fill the cage, the Panthers have a capable goalie of their own in redshirt senior Austin Geisler. The former Virginia transfer ranks sixth in Division I in saves per game (12.8) and 19th in save percentage (.548). Against the Tigers, Geisler has stopped 23 shots and surrendered just 18 goals. Towson ranks 58th in scoring (8.4 goals per game) and 59th in shooting percentage (23.9). So the offense must cash in on quality scoring chances on Geisler.
"He's a high-energy guy, really a catalyst for that defense and the team," Nadelen noted. "I think that team feeds off of him well. He's a guy that brings a ton of energy to that position. He's made some pretty impressive saves and some pretty consistent saves at the same time. So our guys are going to have to watch the film and capitalize on the opportunities that we create and take good, smart shots to get the ball past him."
3) Trimming turnovers. The Tigers could write a manual on protecting the ball. They lead the country in fewest giveaways per game at 10.1 and have coughed up the ball less than 10 times in three of their last four contests. But High Point ranks 12th in the nation in caused turnovers per game at 7.8, and Nadelen pointed out that the defense is opportunistic and will take calculated chances to pressure opposing offenses. That puts the onus on Towson to secure the ball and value every possession.
"You've got to be smart, you've got be aware of who is covering you and if certain guys do certain things and be aware of what they like to do," Nadelen said. "Maybe they like to jump passes or maybe they like to double you from the backside or things like that. You have to be mindful of those things and be able to play with poise."