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Season’s ‘best effort’ propels Towson men’s lacrosse to 10-8 upset of No. 15 Hofstra

The Towson men’s lacrosse team picked a good time to put forth its best performance of the season.

The host Tigers surrendered only four goals through the first three quarters, raced to a six-goal advantage and withstood a late comeback attempt to outlast No. 15 Hofstra, 10-8, on Tuesday afternoon before an announced 200 at Johnny Unitas Stadium.

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After losing five of its first seven games, Towson (5-6 overall and 2-3 in the Colonial Athletic Association) has won three of its past four and two straight, marking its first winning streak since a four-game run that culminated with the 2019 squad capturing the conference tournament championship. Tuesday’s victory also puts the Tigers just one game behind the Pride (3-2 in the CAA), No. 13 Drexel (3-2) and Massachusetts (3-2) in the race for one of four spots in the league tournament.

“The guys are playing with a little more urgency and focus and poise,” coach Shawn Nadelen said. “It’s good to see them recognize where we are in the season and understand the moment that we’re in. We’re putting a real strong effort in.”

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“Overall, it was definitely the best effort that our team has put forward and our most complete game,” redshirt junior goalkeeper Shane Brennan said. “We’ve got to keep building on it though.”

Brennan and his teammates on the defensive end played a significant role. Brennan made 14 saves — his second-highest total of the season — and four starting longpoles in senior Koby Smith (Loyola Blakefield), redshirt sophomore Garrett Zungailia (Calvert Hall), freshman Colby Barsz and fifth-year senior long-stick midfielder Ethan Ticehurst combined to cause eight of Hofstra’s 12 turnovers.

The man-down defense killed off six of eight extra-man opportunities for the Pride, who entered the game leading the conference and ranking 12th in the country in man-up efficiency at 45.2%. Zungailia said the defenders benefited from an earlier clash April 3 that Towson lost, 8-7.

“We were man-down a ton in this game, and we knew they had shooters and where their shooters were going to be,” he said. “As they were dragging across the top, they also like to look for those skips down to the pipe. That was something we knew, and I think we did a great job of stopping them from getting those easy looks.”

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Nadelen had mixed feelings about Brennan’s outing because it meant Hofstra found shooting lanes. But he credited the entire defense with containing an offense that ranked 14th nationally in scoring at 14.3 goals per game.

“I think the effort is where we like it to be,” Nadelen said. “I thought we were fairly disciplined with our system. We were a little careless at times with some of the penalties and things like that, but I thought overall defensively, it was pretty sound and consistent with what we wanted to do. Shane definitely had a strong performance for us, which covered up some of our mistakes. So that helps definitely. We’d like to keep this going forward.”

The offense wasn’t spectacular, but that’s not the objective. The unit played methodically, working the shot clock and tiring the Hofstra defense before finding an opening and striking when chances emerged.

“There were a lot of times in the games that we were losing when our defense would end up playing a lot of defense for a really long time,” said fifth-year senior attackman Brody McLean, who led the Tigers with four goals on six shots. “Part of our way of helping them out is keeping the ball down for much of the shot clock and grinding down the defense. That not only helps our defense catch their breath, but it also helps us get our rhythm and grind down the opposing defense.”

Fifth-year senior midfielder Jake McLean (no relation to Brody McLean) scored twice, and senior midfielder Carson Gaeger (St. Paul’s) and junior midfielder Ryan Swain (Westminster) added one goal and one assist each to help Towson build a 10-4 advantage with 6:34 left in the fourth quarter.

The Pride responded with three goals in 80 seconds to draw within 10-7 with 4:35 remaining. Hofstra then got an extra-man opportunity goal from sophomore midfielder Justin Sykes with 57.7 seconds left and relied on senior Brian Herber to win his 15th faceoff in 20 attempts.

But Brennan stoned senior midfielder Riley Forte from a spot just a few yards off the left side of the crease, and the Tigers essentially ran out the remaining time to cement the victory.

Senior attackman Ryan Tierney paced Hofstra (6-3) with three goals and one assist, and redshirt senior goalie Bobby Casey turned aside seven shots. But coach Seth Tierney, Ryan’s father, said the Pride failed to match Towson’s intensity.

“I think we lost this game in the first half,” the elder Tierney said. “The one factor that took place is their desire. At 1-3 in the conference, this game was a must-win [for Towson], and it showed. Their guys really played hard, and we didn’t get going until the second half and most importantly the fourth quarter.”

TOWSON@UMASS

Saturday, 1 p.m.

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