After his fourth – and what turned out to be his final – goal midway through the fourth quarter of the Towson men’s lacrosse’s game against visiting Massachusetts, senior attackman Brendan Sunday unleashed a scream and fired a fist-pump that would have made Tiger Woods proud.
It was a display of energy and enthusiasm that the No. 11 Tigers lacked throughout much of their 14-10 upset by the No. 19 Minutemen before an announced 2,314 at Johnny Unitas Stadium in Towson on a warm Saturday afternoon.
Instead of giving a nine-member senior class a victory in its final home game of the regular season, Towson (8-4 overall and 2-1 in the Colonial Athletic Association) dropped from a tie for first place with Delaware in the conference. The Blue Hens (10-2, 3-0) defeated Hofstra (4-8, 1-2), 13-7, later in the afternoon, setting up a significant tilt with the Tigers on Saturday at noon at Delaware Stadium in Newark.
Towson did not do itself any favors, sleep-walking through the first three quarters and scoring just one goal per stanza.
“Definitely an effort that we never want to see happen again, especially the first half,” Tigers coach Shawn Nadelen said. “For whatever reason, we weren’t ready to step on the field and compete, and that was evident by how well they played and how poorly we played. It was kind of the perfect storm in favor of them. … They earned that game. It’s just frustrating that stuff you work on all week, you don’t even come close to executing on game day.”
The offense took 23 combined shots in the second and third quarters, but 12 of them were turned back by Massachusetts senior goalkeeper Sean Sconone, who finished with 17 saves.
The 5-foot-11, 270-pound Sconone credited his defense – anchored by senior defenseman and 2018 CAA Player of the Year Isaac Paparo – with dictating where the Towson players could find their attempts.
“Those guys on the defensive end did a great job of keeping them down the alleys and giving me opportunities to make stops,” he said. “Those guys did their jobs really well today.”
Sunday, who led all scorers with five points on four goals and one assist, said he and his teammates were guilty of not paying attention to the scouting report.
“We were shooting right into his stick,” he said. “We talked about it. He’s really good stick-side, and we shot a bunch into his body as well. He’s a bigger kid. He’s obviously good, but we made him definitely look a lot better than he was. I didn’t think we played terrible as an offense. Our shots turned into quick possessions for them and put a lot of pressure on the defense. They had a couple transition goals early, and that plays right into what they do. So our poor shooting was kind of our downfall.”
On the flip side, the Minutemen turned a 1-1 tie into a 7-1 advantage thanks to a 6-0 run over an 11:59 stretch spanning the first and second quarters. Six of their 10 goals in the first half were unassisted as Massachusetts players simply outran their defenders for point-blank chances against junior goalie Tyler Canto (eight saves).
“They were a little bit slow to slide to us earlier in the game,” UMass coach Greg Cannella noted. “Our guys did win a couple matchups, but it was more about our transition game being able to get up and get good looks at Canto.”
After Paparo scored to give the Minutemen a 13-4 lead just 52 seconds into the fourth quarter, the Tigers scored five unanswered goals over 4:46 to draw within four with 7:14 remaining after Sunday’s tally. But the offense misfired on at last two possessions, and junior midfielder Jeff Trainor (three goals) converted a feed from sophomore attackman Chris Connolly (one goal and three assists) with 2:35 left.
As much as Towson will try to look ahead to Saturday’s game against Delaware, there is one lesson to learn from the setback to Massachusetts, according to Nadelen.
“Honestly, we’ve got to figure out how we don’t repeat that,” he said. “I find it hard that it does happen for a game, something you work so hard to prepare for during practice and stuff so that once game day comes, we should have a lot of excitement and be ready to play.”
Massachusetts; 5; 5; 2; 2; —; 14
Towson; 1; 1; 1; 7; —; 10
Goals: M—Procyk 3, Trainor 3, O’Brien 2, B.Spencer 2, Connolly, Cutinella, Paparo, Tobin; T—Sunday 4, Fromert 2, Ey, B.McLean, Montgomery, Sovero. Assists: M—Connolly 3, O’Brien, B.Spencer, D.Spencer, Tobin; T—Laundry, Monahan, Smith, Sunday. Saves: M—Sconone 17; T—Canto 9.