One of top-seeded Towson's most prominent worries heading into Thursday's Colonial Athletic Association tournament semifinal against No. 4 seed Drexel was crafting a strategy to quiet senior attackman Cole Shafer.
The All-CAA first-team pick entered the game ranked second in the conference in goals per game (2.6) and fifth in average points (3.2). Against league competition, he had scored a conference-best 14 goals and 19 points, which was second only to Hofstra junior attackman Josh Byrne's 20 points.
But Shafer scored just once and that occurred with 80 seconds left in the fourth quarter of an eventual 8-4 win for the Tigers. Junior defenseman Sid Ewell was tasked with shadowing Shafer, who took only three shots.
"I didn't really see a lot of action against him," said Ewell, a CCBC-Essex graduate. "They were just moving the ball a lot and initiating with their offense on a lot of pick plays and stuff. I just stay poised and controlled on defense as our coaches always explain to us and played within myself."
Towson coach Shawn Nadelen pointed out that the Dragons use their midfielders to initiate and force defenders to slide, which open scoring chances for the attack.
"We didn't have to look to show and support as much as we needed to with those guys getting the edge or getting to the middle of the field," Nadelen said. "… We wanted to stay away from that because that attack is so dangerous. Once the ball gets moving and once the defense gets sliding, they can pick you apart. So we tried to stay away from that as much as possible. That's how those guys are very productive. When they did have the ball, I thought we were disciplined and sound on them as far as them dodging. I thought we were pretty aggressive but also played under control."
Circling back to "Three Things to Watch" …
1) Getting to Granito. Drexel goalkeeper Jimmy Joe Granito entered the game leading the CAA in saves per game at 12.8, and the senior outdid himself Thursday, stopping a game-high 18 shots for the Dragons (6-8). In two games against Towson (9-4), Granito, a Loyola Maryland transfer, made 29 saves. Tigers senior midfielder Mike Lynch said even though Granito was brilliant, the offense continued to pepper him with 26 of its 40 shots on the cage.
"He's tremendous," said Lynch, a Forest Hill resident and Boys' Latin graduate. "We know he's going to make good saves, but you've got to keep shooting and you've got to keep going. You've just got to find the net. You can't stop shooting. You can't be scared. You've got to keep playing."
2) Shadowing Shafer. See above.
3) Working with Woodall. Towson sophomore Alex Woodall proved why he was an All-CAA first-team choice in his first season since transferring from High Point. The Annapolis resident and St. Mary's graduate won 14 of 16 faceoffs and picked up a game-best nine ground balls Thursday. In two meetings with Drexel, he has claimed 76.5 percent of his draws (26 of 34) and 11 loose balls. Woodall's dominance was significant in giving the offense enough chances to get the ball past Granito.
"We needed those possessions," Nadelen said. "Jimmy Joe has 18 saves, and we only get eight goals. Granted, we didn't shoot the ball terrific. We got a few by him, which was great. But the way he was playing and the way we needed to play offense, we needed more opportunities, and [Woodall] provided that."