The Towson men’s lacrosse team hasn’t had many smile-worthy moments this spring. And truth be told, Saturday did not initially seem to be one of them.
But the host Tigers rallied from three five-goal deficits and employed an 8-1 run bridging the third and fourth quarters to edge Fairfield, 12-11, before an announced 150 at Johnny Unitas Stadium in Towson.
Towson improved to 4-6 and collected its first regular-season win in the Colonial Athletic Association in four attempts. The program had not defeated a conference opponent during the regular season since April 27, 2019 when that squad nipped Drexel, 11-9.
The Tigers still remain behind No. 12 Delaware (4-0 CAA), Massachusetts (3-1), No. 18 Hofstra (2-1) and Drexel (2-2) in the race for a spot in the four-team league tournament, but Saturday’s victory added fuel to the players’ competitive fire.
“It’s huge,” said redshirt freshman attackman Andrew Milani, who had two goals and one assist. “Coach asked us the other day how many kids on our team had a CAA win, and it was probably only a fifth of the team. So today he asked again how many of us had our first CAA win, and the entire team stood up. So I think that was a huge morale boost for the whole team, a confidence boost for four-fifths of the team to get their first CAA win. To come from a five-point deficit and get the win, it’s just awesome for everybody.”
The outcome was the team’s sixth one-goal result of the season, tying the most in a single campaign during coach Shawn Nadelen’s tenure since the 2015 squad also had six in 18 games. Towson is 3-3 in those games.
“To get a win for anybody right now is exciting and relieving at the same time,” Nadelen said. “You put so much effort into it and to get after it, I know our guys put a lot on themselves to play at a high level, and I recognize that we maybe haven’t done a great job of that recently to the best of our ability. So I know for them to have to come from behind and be able to go on the run that we did and close out the game should give them a lot of confidence and belief in each other.”
In the first half, it appeared the Stags (2-6, 0-5) would earn their first league victory after they scored four unanswered goals in a 7:22 stretch to turn a 3-2 deficit into a 7-2 advantage with 3:29 left in the second quarter.
Fairfield maintained that five-goal lead two more times in the third period — at 8-3 with 12:11 remaining and then at 9-4 with 8:14 left. But the Tigers found a spark when they turned to junior Drew Martin, a short-stick defensive midfielder who has dabbled in faceoffs, to muck it up with freshman Dylan Smith.
“I didn’t really win too many clamps on the faceoff, but I just kind of stayed gritty on the ground balls to get the checks when I can,” said Martin, who won a career-high six faceoffs in 13 attempts and tied a personal-best four ground balls in the second half. “My job is just to keep the ball on the ground and kind of get our wings involved on the ground balls. The balls kind of went my way, and we were able to get a lot of possessions off the faceoffs in the second half.”
Junior midfielder Alex Reid had a hand in Towson’s next two goals, assisting on junior midfielder Ryan Swain’s tally with 7:26 remaining and then scoring off a feed with junior attackman James Avanzato with 5:50 left.
After graduate student attackman Dylan Beckwith converted a pass from freshman attackman Jake Coleman to give the Stags a 10-6 advantage, the Tigers ran off six consecutive goals, including four in the fourth quarter.
Milani’s goal off a pass from senior midfielder Carson Gaeger (St. Paul’s) made the score 10-10 with 13:41 remaining for the first tie since it was 1-1 with 3:32 left in the first quarter. Fifth-year senior attackman Brody McLean’s goal off a feed from Avanzato gave Towson an 11-10 edge with 9:42 remaining for the team’s first lead since it was 1-0 with 9:36 left in the opening frame.
And Milani’s behind-the-back goal on the right side of the crease thanks to a brilliant pass from Avanzato curling the left post with 5:50 remaining proved to be the game-winner.
“I had it in my right hand, and I kind of looked and saw that the goalie [freshman Colin Consoli] was hugging the right pipe,” Milani said. “And there was like five seconds left on the shot clock, so I wasn’t going to pull it out. So I just decided to throw it over the shoulder, and luckily, it went over his shoulder.”
After a goal by graduate student attackman Matt Chlastawa halved the deficit to one with 5:08 left, Fairfield had possession of the ball after a timeout at the 1:16 mark. But Tigers senior defenseman Koby Smith (Loyola Blakefield) stripped Beckwith of the ball, and the teams traded turnovers in the middle of the field that ran out the clock and cemented the victory for Towson.
Nadelen admitted to feeling anxious in that final minute.
“You’ve just seen so much effort that the guys put in and so much desire to get that lead,” he said. “And sometimes they expend so much energy to tie it up or to make a comeback and take a lead that there is a little bit of that sigh of relief, but there can’t be. There can’t be that letdown. … It was just great to see our guys stay poised and stay focused in on what we wanted to do with the ball and try to build on it.”
Reid, a Baltimore resident and Loyola graduate, set career highs in goals (two), assists (one) and points (three). Avanzato finished with three assists, and redshirt junior goalkeeper Shane Brennan compiled 10 saves (eight in the first half) and three ground balls.
Beckwith compiled game highs in both goals (four) and points (five), Consoli made 10 stops (eight in the second half), and Smith went 17-of-26 on faceoffs and collected 10 ground balls. But coach Andrew Baxter rued the team’s inability to finish the game in the fourth quarter.
“Tough one,” he said. “Still looking for a complete game in the CAA. I told the team they don’t just hand out wins in this league. We’re just looking to put 60 minutes together, and we just haven’t done that this season. So it hurts a little bit.”