Turnovers have plagued the Towson men’s lacrosse team this season, and that deficiency surfaced again on Saturday.
The No. 20 Tigers committed a game-high 17 turnovers (including 10 unforced) and five in the fourth quarter, and No. 3 Duke took advantage to escape Johnny Unitas Stadium in Towson with a 10-8 win before an announced 2,054.
Towson (3-4) appeared to be on the cusp of its second upset win in as many games after upending then-No. 14 Ohio State, 7-6, in overtime a week ago. Trailing 7-2 at halftime, the Tigers scored six unanswered goals over a 13:35 span to assume an 8-7 lead just 2:41 into the last frame.
But those hopes were dashed in that pivotal final stanza in which Towson could not protect the ball. Entering the weekend, the Tigers were tied for 10th out of 69 Division I teams in most turnovers per game at 15.7. Their season low in giveaways was 12 in that win against the Buckeyes.
“Obviously a tough one to give up,” coach Shawn Nadelen said. “We didn’t play a great first half, and a good team like Duke is going to take advantage of that. But I really was impressed with our guys’ ability to regain their focus and to come out and play much sharper in that second half. We made some faulty mistakes late in the game. Got a little careless in our zone and obviously said something that we shouldn’t have to the refs and that kind of put us behind while we were trying to get back the lead.”
A goal by junior midfielder Sean Lowrie with 10:16 remaining lifted the Blue Devils (7-1) into an 8-8 tie. Then senior attackman Justin Guterding’s shot from a sharp angle right of the cage burrowed its way between redshirt freshman goalkeeper Shane Brennan’s legs and into the net for a 9-8 lead with 4:44 left in the fourth quarter.
Towson junior faceoff specialist Alex Woodall won the ensuing faceoff and passed the ball to junior attackman Timmy Monahan, who ran into a double team and coughed up the ball. Duke pounced on the opportunity with sophomore faceoff specialist Brian Smyth finding freshman attackman Joe Robertson alone on the left side of the crease for a 10-8 advantage with 4:22 remaining.
Nadelen pointed out that a long-stick midfielder should have stayed on the field and helped, but Monahan said the onus is on him to make a better decision with the ball.
“Woodall gave me a great pass, and I got it and I was trying to get away, and I got doubled,” said Monahan, a Maryland transfer who finished with two goals, one assist and two turnovers. “If I had to go back, I’d probably go back to the defense and we would get a clear really easily because we had our faceoff guy and wing guy going off. So we didn’t have many numbers. So if I could go back, I’d probably get help from the D guys.”
The Tigers won the next faceoff on a violation, and after a pair of shots from junior attackman Jon Mazza were turned back by graduate student goalie Danny Fowler, Blue Devils junior defenseman Cade Van Raaphorst was flagged for an illegal body check.
On the one-minute extra-man chance, junior midfielder Grant Maloof sailed a pass over Mazza’s head and out of bounds. Despite protests from the Towson sideline arguing that a Duke player tipped the ball, officials ruled that it was a turnover and then assessed redshirt senior midfielder Jean-Luc Chetner a one-minute penalty for unsportsmanlike penalty with 1:49 remaining.
The Blue Devils used that infraction to help run out the clock.
Although Nadelen continued to insist that Maloof’s pass should not have been ruled a turnover, he acknowledged that the team’s gaffes hurt.
“It’s correctable,” he said. “We forced some things. That’s our learning curve right now where I feel like we’re getting a little bit better. But at times, we’re reverting back to some poor, rushed decisions sometimes.”
In addition to Monahan, Mazza had two goals and one assist, and Brennan made 13 saves.
Duke received four-point efforts from Guterding (three goals, one assist), graduate student midfielder Peter Conley (three goals, one assist) and junior midfielder Brad Smith (one goal, three assists). Fowler made a season-high 14 stops, and coach John Danowski acknowledged that his team dodged a bullet by rallying against the Tigers.
“We knew this was going to be a very tough, grind-it-out kind of contest,” he said. “So we’re very fortunate to get out of here with a victory today.”
Duke 5 2 0 3 — 10
Towson 2 0 4 2 — 8
Goals: D—Conley 3, Guterding 3, Lowrie 2, Robertson, Smith; T—Mazza 2, Monahan 2, Chetner, Giuffreda, Sovero, Sunday. Assists: D—Smith 3, Conley, Guterding, Robertson, Russell, Smyth; T—Mazza, Monahan, Wies. Saves: D—Fowler 14; T—Brennan 13.