Slow starts might not be too much of a concern if the Towson men’s lacrosse team can quickly find its rhythm as it did in Saturday’s season-opening 17-8 upset of No. 7 Johns Hopkins.
Despite falling behind, 4-2, after the first quarter, the Tigers erupted for all eight goals of the second quarter and cruised past the Blue Jays before an announced 1,509 at Johnny Unitas Stadium in Towson.
Towson (1-0) also opened the third quarter with a goal, completing a 9-0 run over 16:35. Freshman midfielder Taite Cattoni’s goal with 11:34 left in the third quarter was the Blue Jays’ first since 48 seconds remained in the first. But the Tigers put together a 4-0 spurt to close out the third with a 15-5 advantage.
“Coming out of the first quarter, we kind of had a little bit of a slow start,” said Towson sophomore defenseman Koby Smith, a Lutherville resident and Loyola Blakefield graduate. “We went down, and as soon as we hit that second quarter, we weren’t down the rest of the game. We played together as a team.”
Towson’s dominance in the second quarter proved crucial in the program’s most lopsided victory over Johns Hopkins (0-1) in series history. Tigers junior attackman Brody McLean scored two of his three goals in a span of 41 seconds to knot the score at 4, senior midfielder Grant Maloof (South River) scored twice and senior attackman Brendan Sunday added one goal and one assist each during the run. Smith, junior midfielder Jake McLean and senior short-stick defensive midfielder Zach Goodrich scored once each during the outburst.
Sunday finished with career highs in goals (six) and points (eight) and became the first Tigers player to score six goals at home since Jonathan Engelke scored eight against Villanova on April 3, 2004. Sunday said the players simply found their comfort level after a jittery first quarter.
“I think there was a little bit of nerves,” he said. “A few guys didn’t get that much time last year. We kind of just settled down. We had a few good looks that we knew we should have finished in the first quarter. We were just talking in the huddle. We knew we would continue to get good looks with the way we were playing, and the ball just started going in, and we got really confident after that.”
The offense’s self-assuredness was aided by the play of senior faceoff specialist Alex Woodall, whose 5-for-7 effort in the first quarter went unrewarded. But in the second period, the Annapolis resident and St. Mary’s graduate won six of eight draws.
“I think our whole team kind of came together in that quarter,” said Woodall, who finished 21-for-28 on faceoffs with a game-best 17 ground balls, one goal and two assists. “I think faceoffs helped a little bit. I felt myself getting into a groove. Me and the wings, once we get into a groove, that’s when we’re at our best.”
Tigers coach Shawn Nadelen was pleased to see his team thrive despite a lethargic opening.
“Obviously, we want to play as strong as we can start to finish,” he said. “But the way we responded when they pumped in a goal and we were able to make a stop or get a faceoff-and-goal, there’s no doubt that this is the first game, and it’s a good win. We still have a lot to work on and clean up.”
Junior attackman Cole Williams (Loyola Blakefield) paced Johns Hopkins with four points on one goal and three assists, and junior midfielder Forry Smith scored twice. But coach Dave Pietramala likened the game to a boxing match in which the Blue Jays were overwhelmed by their opponent.
“Nothing they did on defense was of any surprise to us throughout the game,” he said. “But what happened was in the second quarter, it went from 4-2 to 4-3 to 4-4 to 5-4 to 6-4, and I thought we gave in. I thought we were in a round where our opponent punched us and punched us and punched us and punched us, and we didn’t answer. I think it’s as simple as that.”
» Tyler Canto said he was informed Friday that he would start in the net for Towson because redshirt sophomore Shane Brennan has not recovered from a lower body injury. The 6-foot-6, 245-pound UMass Lowell transfer made 10 saves in his first career start.
“I felt good going into the game,” Canto said. “I was just trying to relax and stay focused, and my defense played great out there and allowed them to take low-angled shots, which allowed me to do as well as I could. So I felt really good out there, especially thanks to the defense.”
» Johns Hopkins sophomore goalkeeper Ryan Darby made 15 saves, but also gave up 17 goals. Pietramala refused to blame Darby, who made his first career start.
“I don’t think he played great, but who did? You find me a guy that you thought played great, and you and I can have an argument,” he said. “I don’t think we had one. Kid’s in his first start. I don’t think we did our job in front of him and clearly, I didn’t do my job getting that group ready.”
» The loss was the Blue Jays’ worst in a season opener since the 1994 squad began that year with a 20-11 humbling defeat to Princeton. Johns Hopkins dropped its season opener for the first time since Feb. 24, 2007, when Albany held on for an 8-7 upset.
» The home team has now won the last six games in the teams’ series.
Johns Hopkins 4 0 1 3 — 8
Towson 2 8 5 2 — 17
Goals: J—F.Smith 2, Cattoni, DeSimone, Epstein, Keogh, Marr, C.Williams; T—Sunday 6, B.McLean 3, Maloof 2, K.Smith 2, Fromert, Goodrich, J.McLean, Woodall. Assists: J—C.Williams 3, DeSimone, Epstein, Zinn; T—Sunday 2, Woodall 2, Beacham, Bodden, Woodall. Saves: J—Darby 15; T—Canto 10.