When the Towson men’s lacrosse program sits back and reviews its 2019 season, Wednesday night might prove to be the turning point.
Using a plethora of solid performances from a variety of positions, the No. 7 Tigers secured their second upset of the year by shocking top-ranked Loyola Maryland, 12-10, at Johnny Unitas Stadium in Towson.
Before an announced crowd of 2,534, the second-largest for a Tigers home game in February since 2002, Towson remained perfect with a 4-0 record while knocking the Greyhounds from the ranks of the unbeaten with their first loss in four games.
“I’m excited for our program to earn a tough win over a top team like Loyola,” coach Shawn Nadelen said. “I expected it to be a battle from start to finish, and it definitely was. I didn’t think either team was especially sharp at points during the game, but it didn’t look like it really impacted either team too much. It’s two competitive teams, two experienced teams continuing to go toe-to-toe. We were fortunate to make quite a few plays down the stretch.”
The Tigers rolled over then-No. 7 Johns Hopkins, 17-8, in their season opener Feb. 9, but taking down the No. 1 team in the nation has different undertones. Wednesday’s victory was the program’s first against a top-ranked opponent since April 4, 1992, against — guess who — the Greyhounds, and it ended an 18-game losing streak to No. 1 teams.
“It’s a big win for our program, and it’s nice to know that we can hang with teams like that and that we can beat teams like that,” senior attackman Brendan Sunday said. “But like Coach was talking about in the locker room, it’s February. It’s our fourth game. We’re definitely happy and excited we won, but we’re looking forward to Cornell and Jacksonville [on March 8 and 10]. We’ve got two games in three days down in Charlotte, and we’re looking forward to that.”
Towson benefited from yeoman-like efforts from several players. All six starters on offense contributed at least two points, and the group was paced by Sunday’s four goals and one assist. Junior attackman Brody McLean added two goals and an assist.
Sunday completed his third hat trick of the season just 1:24 into the second quarter to give the Tigers a 5-2 advantage, and Loyola responded by switching to a zone defense. The change confused Towson enough that the offense scored only two goals for the remainder of the second frame and all of the third, but Sunday credited offensive coordinator Anthony Gilardi with shifting dodgers like himself and senior midfielder Tim Monahan (two goals) to the wings, where they could attack the short-stick defensive midfielders.
“Then we flipped a couple guys behind and started attacking them from behind with [redshirt sophomore attackman] Luke [Fromert] and Brody,” he said. “We were in the right spots.”
Not to be outdone, the defense was sparked by junior goalkeeper Tyler Canto’s game-high 14 saves, including a point-blank stop while sitting on his backside in the fourth quarter, and sophomore defenseman Koby Smith’s ability to limit Loyola star senior attackman Pat Spencer to one goal on eight shots.
Spencer, the Davidsonville native and Boys’ Latin graduate, finished with four assists, but scored his only goal with 6:19 left in the fourth quarter to draw the Greyhounds to within 9-8.
Smith, a Lutherville native who played at Loyola Blakefield, said he concentrated on playing low on Spencer’s hips.
“I defended him in high school,” Smith said. “He’s a lot better now than he was in high school, but he’s just another player. I played him the same way we do with everybody else. I played to my best ability.”
And senior faceoff specialist Alex Woodall won 20 of 26 faceoffs (including going 10-for-10 in the fourth quarter), collected a game-best 14 ground balls and fed McLean for the eventual game-winning goal with 5:36 left in regulation.
Sophomore attackman Kevin Lindley led Loyola with a season-high six goals, and freshman midfielder Chase Scanlan chipped in one goal and two assists. But after drawing within one at 11-10 with 2:13 left in regulation, the Greyhounds did not regain possession.