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College Lacrosse

Towson men’s lacrosse flourishes on offense and defense to upset No. 20 UMass, 12-9

Any win is key. The Towson men’s lacrosse team hopes Saturday’s might unlock a fruitful run.

The Tigers scored four of the game’s first five goals and never trailed en route to a wire-to-wire 12-9 upset of No. 20 Massachusetts in a pivotal Colonial Athletic Association matchup Saturday afternoon before an announced 1,026 at Johnny Unitas Stadium.

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Senior attackman James Avanzato and junior midfielder Kyle Berkeley scored three goals each to fuel Towson (5-6 overall), which got off to a 2-0 start in the conference for the first time since 2019. That was the last time the program captured the CAA Tournament championship, which might be a positive omen.

“It helps a lot when it’s conference, especially against a team like UMass where historically we’ve had a lot of games where we’ve battled back and forth,” said redshirt senior goalkeeper Shane Brennan, who made a game-high 16 saves. “They’re a blue-collar team and so are we. Both teams are kind of known for that, and it showed today. It’s a step in the right direction. Just got to keep going that way.”

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Minutemen coach Greg Cannella was left impressed by the Tigers’ showing.

“People can say whatever they want to say about their record, but they’re a really good team,” he said. “They proved that today. … I don’t think the score indicated what the result was. I thought they kicked the crap out of us.”

Towson’s come-from-behind 13-12 victory at Drexel on April 2 snapped a three-game losing skid, and coach Shawn Nadelen said that result provided them with some much-needed momentum against the Minutemen, who lost for the first time in six games.

“Earning that win at Drexel against a team that is very strong, I think it definitely allowed our guys to have some confidence off of that and continue to build it forward,” he said. “I’m glad the guys made it work this week, too.”

Midfielder Austin Stewart, one of 14 seniors the Tigers honored before the game, gave the team the early lead with a rocket from the left wing with 12:09 left in the first quarter. After senior midfielder Matt Weigand converted a pass from graduate student attackman Kevin Tobin to help UMass knot the score at 1 with 9:25 remaining, Towson scored three unanswered goals over a 2:38 stretch for a 4-1 advantage with 2:52 left.

After the Tigers opened the third quarter with a goal to take a 7-4 lead with 12:54 remaining, the Minutemen scored twice in an 80-second span to trim the deficit to one with 7:00 left. But Towson went on a 4-0 run over 10:13 stretch over the third and fourth frames to enjoy an 11-6 advantage with 11:11 remaining in the final quarter and essentially put the game out of reach.

The Tigers’ defense was especially strong throughout the game. For the second consecutive start, Brennan turned aside 16 shots, while fifth-year senior defenseman Koby Smith (Loyola Blakefield) limited Tobin, UMass’ top playmaker with team highs in both assists (14) and points (26), to a lone assist in the first half. The defense did not surrender a goal in stretches of 7:14 in the first quarter, 7:13 and 9:53 in the second, 7:00 in the third and 6:52 in the fourth.

Brennan said the Minutemen’s frustrations on offense were visible to him and his defensive teammates.

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“You can hear the players talk to each other after a turnover or a save or a shot-clock expiration,” he said. “You hear them kind of start getting after each other, and that’s kind of momentum for us. Them talking to each other, we kind of feed off of that, and that gives us energy.”

UMass junior goalie Matt Knote also played well, making nine stops in the first half. But he made just three more in the second as the Tigers took care with their shot selection.

“He was seeing the ball early,” Avanzato, who added two assists for a game-best five points, said of Knote. “Like most of the games with Shane, goalies are hot, and you just need to keep trusting the scout that we had all week and keep shooting to spots.”

Besides Knote, the Minutemen (6-4, 1-1) were paced by junior midfielder Matt Tobin’s one goal and three assists and Kevin Tobin’s two goals and one assist. But Cannella pointed out that his extra-man unit went scoreless in five chances (Towson converted 2-of-4 opportunities) and that the offense struggled against the Tigers’ size and aggression on defense.

“I think it has a lot to do with their personnel,” Cannella said before rattling off the jersey numbers of Smith, redshirt junior defensemen Garrett Zungailia (Calvert Hall), and junior short-stick defensive midfielders Reece Potter and Brandon Hund. “Those guys were excellent today, all of them covering guys, playing off the ball, getting the ball off the ground.”

TOWSON@DELAWARE

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Saturday, noon


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