Towson’s offense was consistently inconsistent again, and the Tigers still won because of a clutch fourth period.
Towson, the three-time defending Colonial Athletic Association champion, kept its conference title and NCAA playoff hopes alive with a 13-7 win over Delaware on Saturday before an announced crowd of nearly 900 at Johnny Unitas Stadium.
It was crunch time for Towson (5-7, 2-2 CAA) because three other teams had 1-2 records in league play and a loss would’ve virtually eliminated the Tigers from being one of the four teams to compete in the CAA tournament. The winner gains an automatic berth in the NCAA Division I tournament.
Fortunately for the Tigers, their offense showed up Saturday, and that hasn’t always been the case this season. Towson entered the game averaging only 8.73 goals per game and the Tigers had a shooting percentage of .270. They also only had converted on nine of 35 extra-man opportunities.
On Saturday, Towson still shot around .270 but faceoff specialist Alex Woodall (St. Mary’s) won a career-high 22 of 24 faceoffs and the Tigers offense wore down Delaware (5-7, 2-2) in the fourth period by outscoring the Blue Hens, 7-1.
All of a sudden, the criticism about Towson’s offense disappeared.
“I think our guys have realized that this just doesn’t happen on game day,” Towson head coach Shawn Nadelen said. “They are realizing the preparation that needs to go in through the course of the week as far as film work and shooting on their own. We are trying to do our best to be more consistent and limit turnovers.”
Nadelen has spent this season trying to rebuild one of the most talented teams in school history from a year ago, when the Tigers advanced to the final four. The Tigers have been solid on defense, but extremely inconsistent offensively, averaging 15 goals during CAA home games and only 3.5 on the road.
Their shooting has been erratic and it was that way Saturday. Towson banged about five shots off the pipes in the first half and Blue Hens goalie Matt DeLuca had eight of his 14 total saves in the first two periods when Towson outshot Delaware, 24-12.
Towson repeatedly got good looks at the goal. The Tigers had good motion and they found the open player. Either the Tigers were going to go on a run in the second half or bury their playoff opportunities in their shooting frustrations.
They chose to bury Delaware in the fourth quarter.
Towson senior midfielder Jean-Luc Chetner had four goals, two of those in the final 1:02 of the game. Sophomore midfielder Matt Sovero had three. including two in the fourth quarter, and junior attackman Johnny Giuffreda had two, including one that opened the fourth to break a 6-6 tie and another with 2:54 remaining to put Towson ahead, 11-7.
“We were sharing the ball pretty well and we just cashed in on the opportunities,” Giuffreda said. “We were hitting a lot of pipes and he was making saves. We prepared. Every time we shot low, we knew we would get a rebound because he didn’t really make clean saves on low shots from what we saw. We stressed rebounds and we got a couple.”
But the real key was ball movement. Maybe Saturday was a big turning point in Towson’s season. The Tigers have one CAA game remaining against Fairfield next Saturday before the conference tournament begins May 3.
“We went in at halftime with our offense and we had earned a lot of opportunities. We just didn’t finish them off,” Nadelen said. We had shared the ball and didn’t finish them off like in previous games. I liked how aggressive we were. Being that close, we knew we had to cap it off and not get discouraged.
“It’s exciting to get a CAA win, one we really needed not knowing how these last two weeks would turn out. You can only control the one you are in and see how the following week turns out. It came down to which team executed at a really high level.”
And Towson’s offense finally came through.
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