Towson men’s lacrosse coach Shawn Nadelen breathed a sigh of relief Saturday.
After losing three straight games, the No. 11 Tigers rallied with a strong third-quarter performance to defeat Hofstra, 10-9, before an announced crowd of 1,430 at Towson’s Johnny Unitas Stadium in the Colonial Athletic Association conference opener for both teams.
Towson (6-3, 1-0 CAA) had struggled during its skid, losing to then-No. 2 Cornell, then-No. 2 Duke and then-No. 13 Denver. But Nadelen knows that if his team wins the CAA, they automatically qualify for the NCAA tournament. The nonconference games get you ready for the tournament, but the league championship gets your team in it.
“I’m proud of our team in grinding out a tough CAA win,” Nadelen said. “We’ve been in the conference for a long time and they never come easy. To start the CAA schedule with a win is great for us.”
And the win came against a tough conference rival. The Pride (3-7, 0-1) held a 27-22 advantage over the Tigers in the series, but Towson had won two of the previous three. The Tigers have a tough nonconference schedule and they did earn impressive victories over Johns Hopkins, Georgetown and Loyola Maryland.
But in the past three weeks, Towson has had an enormous amount of turnovers. They had 17 on Saturday with eight coming in the fourth quarter, which irritated Nadelen. But the turnovers were overshadowed by the strong third quarter. Hofstra led 7-5 at the half, but the Tigers outscored Hofstra 4-0 in the third period.
Towson midfielders Jake McLean, Brody McLean, Timmy Monahan and Greg Ey each scored one. Jake McLean’s goal put the Tigers ahead 9-7 with 3:01 left in the period.
“We just started moving the ball around,” said midfielder Grant Maloof, who finished with three goals and an assist for Towson. “We all know what to do, but we just had to execute. We were getting the ball to X and moving it around and everyone was getting their shots off.”
In other words, the Tigers were sharing the ball more than they have in recent weeks. They might have been selfish or maybe pressing in previous games, but they appeared more comfortable in the offense Saturday.
Nadelen pulled starter Tyler Canto, a junior, with 3:42 left in the second quarter after he had given up six goals, and replaced him with sophomore Shane Brennan. Brennan finished with four saves including two in the last quarter. One was on Hofstra senior attackman Ryan Tierney, who finished with a game-high four goals, with 1:51 left.
When asked who was going to start next week against Fairfield, Nadelen would only say, “We’ve got two great ones. That’s a luxury we have. Like every position, it is something we have to evaluate. The goalie position is no different than any other position and we will see who we want to go with.”
Overall, though, it was a strong effort by the Tigers, who still need to clean up some of those turnovers. They had several in the final period, which could easily have led to a loss if Towson was playing a better opponent.