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Towson upsets Cuse for spot in semifinals

By: Jesse Baird

Towson jumped out to a 6-0 lead on Syracuse in the first quarter and that sort of start combined with their shutdown defense powered them to the semifinals with an upset of No. 2 Syracuse.

Ryan Drenner’s four assists in the first quarter pushed the unseeded Towson Tigers to a 6-0 lead to start their quarterfinals game in Newark, Delaware. The No. 2 Syracuse Orange were never able to fight out of the hole they were put in and the Tigers advanced to the NCAA Tournament’s semifinals with the 10-7 upset victory on Sunday afternoon.

Drenner, who now has 55 points on the season, helped drive the pace on offense with his remarkable passing while fellow attackman Joe Seider scored three goals in the first quarter alone.

“We started strong and started fast,” Towson head coach Shawn Nadelen said. “We were able to withstand Syracuse’s effort to come back in that second half. Our guys did that with great discipline and toughness throughout the game.”

Starting with a goal by Jon Mazza in just the third minute of the game, the Tigers’ offense caught fire as they went on to put up another five goals in the first period to take a 6-0 lead. Faceoff specialists Alex Woodall, who missed the end of the team’s first-round game against Penn State, was back against the Orange and went 5-for-7 from the faceoff X in the first quarter. That gave Towson the ability to wear down the Syracuse defense and they did just that with their passing. Towson moved the ball well around Syracuse’s goal until their offensive players say their opportunities. Four different players – Mazza, Mike Lynch, Seider and Matt Wylly – were all able to score in the first quarter.

Seider finished the game with four goals while Lynch and Wylly each had two in the game.

“We had a really good shooting day,” Drenner said. “We came out in the first quarter and buried a bunch of our shots and it gave us momentum for the rest of the game.”

In the first period, Syracuse also had four penalties that at one point put the Orange down two men. One was a two-minute unreleasable crosscheck by Luke Schwasnick on Woodall and then not even a minute after that penalty had cleared Jordan Evans was called for a one-minute slash at the same time Sergio Salcido was called for a 30-second push. Towson scored three man-up goals in the first quarter, twice during the unreleasable penalty.

Towson outshot Syracuse 16-4 in the first quarter and had the final 12 shots taken in the final eight minutes of the first quarter. Towson as 3-for-4 on extra-man opportunities in the first 15 minutes as they built up their lead.

“We haven’t done what we did today in the first quarter all year,” Nadelen said. “The guys were focused right off the bat and being aggressive and finished opportunities and our guys executed today.”

Syracuse was able to eventually able to slow Woodall down at the X and for the game split with Towson on the 20 faceoffs. As a result, Syracuse outscored the Tigers 7-4 over the final three-quarters of the game, including 5-2 in the second half, but Towson was never threatened by Syracuse after their red-hot start.

While Towson’s offense put them in a position to win, it was their defense that fought off the final push by the Orange. Goalie Matt Hoy made three saves in the final seven minutes of the game and finished with 12 on the day. Towson, with perhaps the best rope unit in the country, packed their defense in tight and did not allow Syracuse to find any holes to make room down inside.

The Tigers held a 9-3 lead going into the fourth quarter before the Orange scored four goals. A Syracuse goal with 14:16 left in the game started a run that brought their deficit down to four at 10-6 with 12:39 remaining.

Coming back to win games was something Syracuse has done all year long, but when the Orange seemed like they were building toward another one, Hoy shut them down.

“Early in the game I had a save against [Nick] Mariano in a man-up opportunity and that put me in the zone for the rest of the game and gave me confidence,” Hoy said. “It is like I didn’t even see the ball. I just went and knew where they were going to shoot it.”

Zach Goodrich and Tyler Mayes made their presence felt on defense. Goodrich finished the game with three caused turnovers and Mayes had two more. Syracuse, which ranked second in the nation in man-up offense, was shutout on their four extra-man opportunities.

Goodrich, Mayes, and Jack Adams helped limit the high-powered Syracuse midfield of Salcido, Marino, and Jamie Trimboli to just one goal on a combined 11 shots. Nick Soloman was the leader for Syracuse’s offense, finishing with four goals. He had the final three of the game, with his last coming with less than a minute remaining when the outcome had long been decided.

“It was a team effort,” Nadelen said. “We felt it was their offensive midfield versus our strengths in our defense. Fortunately, we came away on the positive end. We had a couple of scary situations they generated, and we made a couple nice plays at the same time.”

The Tigers secured their first trip to the NCAA men’s lacrosse Final Four in 16 years; a journey that has been taken a few small steps at a time and began two years ago with an opening round win, before then going to the quarterfinals last year and now to championship weekend this year.

“It is really exciting,” Drenner said. “I think our team is playing well at the right time of the year. I don’t think any of the guys on the team will say this is not a magical feeling because we kind of expected to be here. We have built on our successes each year and are confident going into next weekend.”

The Tigers are 12-4 on the year and will play Ohio State on Saturday, May 27 in the semifinals held at Gillette Stadium in Boston, Massachusetts. Towson played Ohio State earlier this year. They suffered a 6-3 loss but in brutal conditions. The originally scheduled game was postponed until the next day because of inclement weather and they still played in sub-freezing temperatures with heavy winds. On memorial day weekend, both teams will be able to play in much better weather conditions, but the Tigers are also playing much better with their defense settled in.

Amazingly, Towson entered the year having graduated all three of their close defensemen and their All-American goalkeeper, but have one of the best defensive units in college lacrosse this year. Towson has not allowed an opponent to score double-digit goals since March 25 when they beat Georgetown, 11-10. They have won eight of their last nine games, including their last five.

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