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Tigers win third straight CAA championship

By: Jesse Baird

Back-to-back-to-back CAA Champions.

The Towson Tigers men’s lacrosse team defeated the third-seeded UMass Minutemen 9-4 on Saturday afternoon at Johnny Unitas Stadium to win their third straight CAA Championship, clinching an automatic berth into the NCAA tournament. They are the first program in the history of the conference to achieve such a feat.

“I couldn’t be more proud and more honored,” Towson head coach Shawn Nadelen said. “[I am] more proud of these guys for winning the championship today and more honored to be able to share a locker room and practice field with them every day. Through the season, we had a lot of turbulence but these guys have done a great job continuing to stay focused, especially playing two games in three days with only a few whole middles, and only running a few D guys. They did a great job earning two tough wins.”

This victory came from a balanced performance on offense and defense, a game where six different Tigers scored. Ryan Drenner and Mike Lynch each scored twice and Matt Hoy earned Most Outstanding Player of the tournament honors after another strong performance, finishing with eight saves, two caused turnovers and three ground balls.

The Tigers defense did a great job keeping the ball out of the net, only allowing four goals on 31 shots, with eight stops from Hoy.

“It starts with our rogue defensive unit,” Hoy said. “I’m always spoiled in the net, I almost never see offensive middies having their hand free on shots. They did a great job staying on shooters hand, which gives me a huge advantage because it takes speed off the ball and gives me more time to react.”

The game started with both teams exchanging goals in the first three minutes of the game. A goal by Zach Goodrich then started a three-goal run by the Tigers to end the first quarter. That run also included goals by Joe Seider and Lynch.

That run was key as the second and third quarters were even as Towson and UMass traded goals. The run at the end of the first quarter allowed Towson to take a 6-3 lead into the fourth quarter. Drenner and Lynch were the scorers for Towson in the two middle quarters. Dan Muller scored both goals for UMass in the stretch.

While up three goals, the Tigers scored three straight to start the fourth quarter to put things away. Towson faceoff specialists Alex Woodall started the run by taking the faceoff and running right up the field for a score just six seconds into the fourth quarter. Towson took as much as a 9-3 lead in the period.

Woodall was not able to have as much dominant success as usual in the game as he and UMass faceoff specialists Noah Rak, and All-CAA second team selection, evenly split the 16 faceoffs in the game, but he made his presence felt with the goal early in the fourth quarter. Both were named to the CAA All-Tournament team.

With Woodall able to keep the faceoffs even, and Hoy putting a wall in front of the Tigers goal, Towson was able to get enough done on their 29 shots in the game, playing a methodical possession game.

“We needed to limit our turnovers and just keeping the ball behind the goal, which gives us a better shot to shoot above the goal, making it harder for the goalie to track the ball,” Drenner said.

Towson was able to win the past two games despite scoring only 17 goals on their 69 shots, but with Woodall’s ability at the X and the ability for the defense to shut opponents down, Towson had full confidence in their ability to win in a variety of ways as they head into the NCAA Tournament.

“With Alex Woodall winning nearly ever faceoff we’ll get our chances and they’ll fall eventually,” Drenner said. “We just have to stick to our game plan and have the defense clear balls and give us opportunities, but we do need more goals to fall.”

Close defender Chad Patterson was also on the All-tournament team, joining Lynch, Hoy, and Woodall.

Towson is 10-4 on the season, earning double-digit victories for the third straight year and for the fourth time under Nadelen. It is the first time since Towson elevated to Division I in 1980 that they have won 10 or more game in three straight seasons.

The Tigers will find out their NCAA Tournament opponent and destination on Sunday, May 7 when the field is announced during the national selection show. They were in the play-in game the past two years but made a run to the quarterfinals in 2016 after beating Hobart and upsetting the second-seeded Denver Pioneers.

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