Off to a 1-3 start and facing the prospect of three straight top-10 opponents over the next three weeks, Towson entered Saturday's matchup against crosstown-rival UMBC in desperate need of a win.
The host Tigers finally acted like it in the game's waning minutes after more than three quarters of uneven play.
Junior Jon Mazza scored a game-high five goals, including three in the fourth quarter, as Towson rallied from a one-goal deficit to score four straight in an 8-6 win before a sparse, wind-blown crowd at Johnny Unitas Stadium.
“Each game we've gotten better and better," said Mazza, who had a career-high seven points. "To come back and win like that, it's a huge confidence booster for us.”
The Tigers had put together strong efforts in back-to-back games against Georgetown and Loyola Maryland in the previous seven days, only to fall apart late in each.
"To be able to dig in in the fourth quarter, which has been a little of our issue to this point of the season, was something I was excited about," Towson coach Shawn Nadelen said.
Towson (2-3) received a dominant performance from junior Alex Woodall (St. Mary's), who won 15 of 18 faceoffs, including all nine in the second half. He had entered the day winning 65.5 percent of his chances.
That would've mattered little if not for a game-changing sequence early in the fourth quarter.
Trailing 5-4, the Tigers pulled even when Mazza curled around the back of the net and fired a low shot that beat freshman goalie Tommy Lingner. UMBC's bench was whistled for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, giving Towson a man advantage for a minute.
Mazza then scored his second goal in 38 seconds, on an extra-man opportunity from 15 yards in front, and Towson never relinquished the lead.
“That was kind of a huge momentum swing right there," Retrievers coach Ryan Moran said. "I would say, for the first three quarters and first four minutes of the fourth, I was feeling really good. Then, obviously, that happens. Credit them for being organized and canning their opportunities on the man-up. That really was a big two-goal swing.”
"We made a couple mistakes in the first half and the third quarter, so to have an opportunity like that was huge," Mazza said.
Goals by Grant Maloof (South River) and Mazza later in the quarter sealed the win for Towson, which now has beaten UMBC seven straight times, improving to 34-15 in the all-time series. The Retrievers (1-3) have not beaten the Tigers at Towson since 2008.
This marks the fourth straight season in which UMBC has lost three straight games. Each of the past three ended with sub-.500 records.
For much of this one, the Retrievers seemed in control, with freshmen Trevor Patschorke (Severna Park) and Ben Keller scoring three and two goals, respectively, and their defense forcing 15 turnovers. UMBC led 5-4 before going the next 18:41 without a goal.
It's that kind of defensive effort that Nadelen hopes continues in upcoming games against No. 6 Ohio State, No. 3 Duke and No. 5 Denver.
"We know that wins aren't easy, regardless of who you're playing," Nadelen said. "I think our biggest challenge is … not beating ourselves, not being our toughest opponent.”