The Hobart men's lacrosse team made its first appearance in the NCAA Division I tournament since 2004, while Towson was competing in the postseason for the third time in four years.
The disparity in experience was on display Wednesday as the host Tigers turned a 1-0 deficit into a 7-1 advantage en route to an 18-5 pummeling in an NCAA tournament play-in game before an announced 564 at Johnny Unitas Stadium in Towson.
Towson collected a program-record 15th win in 17 games and will meet No. 2 seed and reigning national champion Denver (13-2) in a first-round matchup Sunday at 3 p.m. The Tigers have seven seniors who were members of the 2013 and 2015 squads that played in the postseason.
"It was kind of knowing that they didn't have that experience and kind of hoping that maybe ours would trump theirs and be able to push us forward, and I think it did," Tigers coach Shawn Nadelen said. "It did have a little bit of an effect on the game, especially the two days leading up. I thought our guys practiced well and prepared well. They weren't distracted with just being in the tournament or distracted with being in a play-in game or anything like that. We just handled it as another opportunity, the next game that we had in front of us."
Many of the Statesmen's players were still in elementary school when the 2004 team lost to Cornell, 11-5, in the first round, and that lack of familiarity was evident.
Hobart (10-7), the Northeast Conference tournament champion, scored the game's first goal when junior midfielder Mark Darden converted a pass from freshman attackman Chris Aslanian with 11 minutes, 41 seconds left in the first quarter. But after that, the Statesmen ended offensive possessions with rushed, low-percentage shots or careless turnovers.
The Tigers missed on their first six attempts, but after senior attackman Spencer Parks (St. Paul's) scored on a back-to-the-net shot from the slot with 10:01 remaining, the floodgates opened. The offense scored seven consecutive goals over a 10:56 span to assume a 7-1 advantage capped by a 15-yard, step-down laser from junior attackman Joe Seider (Hereford) just 55 seconds into the second quarter.
During that run, junior attackman Ryan Drenner (Westminster) scored three goals on five shots, and Seider added two goals. The offense had multiple chances thanks to junior Alec Burckley winning six of nine faceoffs during that stretch. Burckley ended up winning 13 of 20 draws and scooping up a game-best eight ground balls.
Towson's total output smashed the program's previous NCAA Division I tournament record of 16 goals posted in a five-goal win against Loyola Maryland in 1996. The Tigers also had the program's largest margin of victory in an NCAA Division I tournament game.
The offensive breakout was dramatically different from their 4-2 win against Fairfield in the Colonial Athletic Association tournament final Saturday.
"We were excited to get back out there and do what we know we can do," said Drenner, who finished with a game-high four goals. "After scoring four goals, it's always nice to come back and score the amount that we scored. Being at home really helped us a lot, the defense making stops early, and Alec winning faceoffs really helped us get going. We had the possession for a lot of the time in that first quarter."
Freshman midfielder Jon Mazza scored three times, Seider and senior midfielder Ben McCarty (South Carroll) each had two goals and one assist, and redshirt freshman attackman Ian Kirby notched three assists. Towson outshot Hobart, 51-17.
The defense also set a school NCAA Division I postseason record by allowing just five goals. The unit kept the Statesmen off the scoreboard for stretches of 32:09 and 19:19, and redshirt senior goalkeeper Tyler White was required to make only four saves.
"What we did a good job on, especially [senior defenseman] Nick Gorman, was pressing out on their key players and just making simple passes uncomfortable for them and caused some turnovers for us," said senior defenseman Mike Lowe, who limited Aslanian — the Northeast Conference Rookie of the Year — to zero goals on three shots and one assist before Lowe left in the fourth quarter. "We were able to get the ground ball and capitalize on them."
Aslanian and junior attackman Sean Donnelly each registered one goal and one assist for the Statesmen, and junior goalie Jackson Brown stopped a game-best 19 shots. Coach Greg Raymond, a 2005 Johns Hopkins graduate, agreed that his team's lack of familiarity with the atmosphere of an NCAA tournament game was a factor.
"When we talked as a coaching staff, we were very anxious to see the way that our guys came out and played today and wondering if the fact that this was an NCAA game would change the way our guys viewed it, and it did," Raymond said. "… We're immature in that way. There's no way around that. We haven't been here before, and they have, and you could see their maturity in the way they played this game."
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