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Buckeyes rally past Tigers in NCAA semifinals

Special Contribution to So Much Sports Baltimore
By: Kathryn Leeber

Ryan Drenner was one of five seniors to score against Ohio State and finished his career with a hat trick and four points.

It would be a fair question to ask what could have been for the Towson Tigers men’s lacrosse team had faceoff specialist Alex Woodall not been knocked out of the game in the fourth quarter with a head injury. Towson had a strong first half but was able to keep the No. 3 Ohio State Buckeyes at bay in the second half while Woodall continued to have success at the X. But after Woodall took an accidental elbow to the side of his helmet the Buckeyes scored three straight goals and took every faceoff in the final 11 minutes of the game as they just pulled ahead and handed the Tigers an 11-10 defeat.

But ultimately, the Buckeyes were able to seize control of the game even before Woodall went down and were mounting a marvelous comeback.

The first half was all Towson as they held a 7-3 lead at the break. Their 5-2 faceoff advantage in the second quarter, coupled with their quick, but methodical passing and efficient shooting helped them built their lead up. The Tigers even scored the first goal of the second half to gain a five-goal advantage on the Buckeyes.

Things were much different in the second half after that first goal by the Tigers. Ohio State rallied and had two four-goal runs and an overall 8-1 run to get ahead of the Tigers. Towson only scored two more times after going up by five goals early in the second half. They just weren’t able to control possession enough and were stuck starting on defense too often.

“Congratulations to Ohio State for earning a hard fought win today against our squad,” Towson head coach Shawn Nadelen said. “I got nothing but love and pride and admiration for our program as a whole but especially for this team here, not only for making it to the final four but how they did that.”

In the grand scheme of things, Towson was not supposed to be this far as an unseeded team that would not have made the NCAA tournament if they had not won the Colonial Athletic Association tournament. They pulled up some great upsets over a Penn State team that at one point this year was ranked No. 1, and upset No. 2 Syracuse in the quarterfinals before falling by just one goal to the No. 3 Ohio State Buckeyes in the NCAA tournament’s semifinals.

Towson showed great strength on offense and was led by their seniors. Joe Seider and Ryan Drenner each had hat tricks while Mike Lynch, Brian Bolewicki, and Tyler Young all also contributed goals in the game.

Lynch scored the first goal of the game in a two man-up situation after pushing penalties were called on Ben Randall and Matt Borges. While Ohio State scored back-to-back in response to gain the lead — with one goal coming from Jack Jasinski coming from behind the net and another quick goal off a faceoff victory that saw Jake Withers pass up to a charging Logan Maccani for the finished — Towson rattled off four straight to take a 5-2 lead in the second quarter.

Ohio State was able to continue with some early pressure in the first quarter but their shots were not on target. After getting the ball, Towson returned the pressure on Ohio State’s defense. With just under two minutes left in the first quarter, Jon Mazza kicked off the Tigers four-goal run with a shot that landed right near Ohio State goalkeeper Tom Carey and the goal line. The referee determined it was good.

While the game was tied 2-2 at the end of the first 15 minutes Seider scored two goals within two minutes of each other to give Towson a 4-2 lead early in the second quarter. Drenner soon added his first goal to go with an assist he already had on Lynch’s first-quarter score.

Ohio State was able to end the Towson run when Tre Leclaire squeezed a shot past the defense right in front of Towson goalkeeper Matt Hoy, but Drenner quickly followed with his second goal of the game. Bolewicki then scored his 10th goal of the year to put Towson up 7-3 at halftime.

Towson trounced Ohio State in shots and held a 25-12 lead on attempts in the first half. Interestingly, this was the third straight game in this NCAA Tournament that Ohio State was held to only three goals at halftime, but that did not stop them from exploding in the second half.

While Seider completed his third straight NCAA tournament hat trick less than four minutes into the third quarter, Ohio State went on their first four-goal run to close the gap.

The start of the Buckeyes comeback was when Austin Shanks scored his 13th goal of the season. Then Leclair scored his second of the night before Shanks scored another in a man-up situation, capitalizing on a Chad Patterson slashing penalty in the third quarter.

Ohio State made it four goals in a row when Eric Fannell scored his first goal of the game with 4:11 left in the third quarter to cut the Tigers lead all the way down to one at 8-7.

Towson ended the Ohio State run and their own nine-plus minute scoring drought when Young scored unassisted with 2:20 left in the third quarter, but the 9-7 was short lived.

Eric Fannell sent the ball flying past Hoy to get the game back to just a one-goal difference with less than two minutes left in the third quarter. That sparked another four-goal run by the Buckeyes. Towson wasn’t getting the opportunities to score in the second half like they were. Ohio State outshot Towson 23-15 in the second half and beat them 10-3 on faceoffs, including victories on all five faceoffs in the fourth quarter while Woodall was down.

“They played better overall defensively,” Seider said. “We were a little bit slower offensively than in the first half. I think overall they just played a more sound defense.”

Towson tried to rally back and extend their lead to start the last quarter, but all of their shots were from a distance and went just wide of the net. Ohio State, on the other hand, was able to convert their shots. Leclaire tied the game with a goal as he earned his hat trick with 11:42 left in the game. His goal came on a man-down and was assisted by Shanks.

It was the faceoff before Leclaire’s goal that Woodall was hit in the head on. Woodall dropped his stick and laid on the ground before he ever even had an opportunity to collect the ball. He did not return in the game.

Ohio State added another goal to take the lead with 10 minutes remaining courtesy of JT Blubaugh’s first goal of the night. A low shot from Johnny Pearson moved the score to 11-9 with only 6:10 left.

With just over three minutes remaining in the game, Drenner notched his third goal of the day, but Ohio State was able to hold on for the victory. Hoy came up with one big save in the final minute of the game and Towson had a chance with 40 seconds left in the game but was unable to get around Ohio State’s defense.

“It was pretty chaotic in the moment,” Seider said. “We were trying to go what we’ve been going all year long to get a good look and force the defense to extend out and hopefully make a mistake. We were just trying to do the best we could and get a last goal but it was chaotic in the last few moments.”

Seider concluded his career at Towson ranked second all-time with 126 career goals. Drenner also moved into seventh place all-time with 127 career points and ninth with 92 goals. He also became the first Towson player to tally 80 career assists since Ryan Oblog finished with 85 from 2000 to 2003. Drenner finished his career with at least one points in his final 30 games. CAA Defensive Player of the Year Tyler Mayes caused a turnover just 15 seconds into the game, which tied the Towson single-season caused turnover mark with 40.

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