Hardly anyone anticipated that Towson, which had to defeat Hobart in an NCAA tournament play-in game Wednesday, would have the energy and preparation time to upend No. 2 seed and 2015 national champion Denver in a first-round game Sunday.
But the Tigers turned back the doubters, forging a 10-9 win over the Pioneers in Denver. And redshirt senior midfielder Ben McCarty conceded that he and his teammates took a certain amount of satisfaction in lodging perhaps the upset of the tournament.
“Yeah, there was a lot of satisfaction,” the Westminster resident and South Carroll graduate said Tuesday afternoon during the team’s media day. “After playing in the play-in game, which we felt disrespected by, to go out and beat the No. 2 seed really showed the kind of team that we are. We were really happy to get that win.”
Towson (16-2), the Colonial Athletic Association regular-season and tournament champion, scored five of the game’s first six goals only to watch Denver tie the score at 7 with 11 minutes, 35 seconds left in the fourth quarter. But the Tigers scored three consecutive goals, and redshirt senior goalkeeper Tyler White said the team learned from last year’s 12-10 loss to No. 1 seed Notre Dame in the first round in which the Fighting Irish rallied from a 6-2 hole in the second quarter.
“I think we weren’t as surprised in such a big game,” White said. “Our team is starting to play better in big games because we’re starting to play in more of them. And the more you play in them, the more comfortable you are in them. So I think having that big-game experience like we did last year when we were on television against the No. 1 team in the country, I really think that eased a lot of kids’ nerves, especially on the defensive end.”
While the players reveled in Sunday’s victory, coach Shawn Nadelen did his best to remain diplomatic.
“I don’t want to say there was any different sense of satisfaction,” he said. “I was excited for the team because they worked hard, especially with the short turnaround with the Wednesday game and then putting a couple days together to prepare for Denver. There wasn’t anything more satisfying about that win than really any other win. It was an opportunity for us to go out hard and commit to each other on the field. We did that against a tough Denver team and earned a win. I don’t think it was anything greater than a win back in February or March, but it’s obviously helping us in the NCAA tournament to continue to advance.”