By: Desmond Boyle, Staff Writer
Towson earned its third straight Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) Championship and a bid in the 2017 NCAA tournament with a 9-4 win over University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Saturday at Johnny Unitas Stadium.
“I couldn’t be more proud of these guys for earning the championship today and more honored to be able to share a locker room with them,” Head Coach Shawn Nadelen said. “Through the season we’ve had a lot of turbulence, but these guys have done a great job of being able to stay focused.”
The Tigers (10-4, 5-1 CAA) got out to a fast start against the Minutemen (7-8, 4-3 CAA). On their first offensive possession, senior midfielder Tyler Young collected a rebound off the crossbar and scored just over a minute into the game.
Towson’s 1-0 lead vanished just one minute later, however, when UMass scored on a man-up opportunity. Senior attackman Grant Consoletti scored from short distance on a feed from fellow senior attackman Gianni Bianchin.
The game went back-and-forth early, but Towson took a 2-1 lead when sophomore midfielder Zach Goodrich collected the ball at midfield, bolted into the attack area and fired a shot past senior goalkeeper D.J. Smith.
Towson expanded its lead to 3-1 shortly after when senior attackman and team leading assister Ryan Drenner found fellow senior attackman Joe Seider cutting to the goalmouth. Seider collected the feed and scored a behind-the-back goal.
Senior midfielder Mike Lynch scored the final goal of the opening quarter and gave Towson a 4-1 lead when he found space in the slot to shoot and score.
“Coming into the game today we really focused on playing smart,” Drenner said. “We knew that Alex Woodall was going to get us the ball and that we needed to limit our turnovers.”
In the second quarter, the first goal came nine minutes in when the Minutemen scored on another man-up opportunity. Redshirt senior midfielder Dan Mulle beat Tigers senior goalkeeper Matt Hoy to make it a 4-2 game.
The Tigers retook a three-goal lead with 1:19 left in the first half when Drenner evaded one Minutemen defender on an isolation play and rifled a shot into the upper 90 of the net.
Drenner’s goal was the last of the first half and Towson took a 5-2 lead going into the break.In the third quarter, the Minutemen came out firing, and Muller made it a two-goal game just two minutes into the second half when he scored from close-range on a pass from Consoletti.
Late in the third, the Minutemen attempted to capitalize on another man-up opportunity to get back in the game. However, Hoy stood firm and made a crucial save that enabled the Tigers to kill the penalty and keep it 5-3 game.
Following Towson’s penalty kill, Lynch gave the team a three-goal lead going into the fourth quarter by by beating Smith from the edge of the goal.
In the final stanza, Towson scored just six seconds in to take a 7-3 lead. Sophomore midfielder Alex Woodall won the opening face-off and drove down the heart of the defense to score.
Midway through the fourth quarter, the Tigers attack pressured the Minutemen into a crucial mistake. In an attempt to clear, junior defenseman Shane Rinkus put the ball into the back of his own net to give the Tigers an 8-3 lead.
Drenner scored one more goal for the Tigers with a minute to play by taking advantage of Smith being out of the net when the Minutemen goalkeeper attempted to pressure the Tigers attack.
UMass scored the last goal of the game in garbage time thanks to Consoletti, but it was too little too late, as Towson held on for a 9-4 victory and its third straight CAA Championship Title.
Hoy made eight saves on the afternoon and recorded the win in net. He was named the Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player.
“I’m spoiled in the net, I almost never see offense or middies having their hands free on shots,” Hoy said. “Almost every time it felt like in the first half I was seeing a shot, the attacker was fading away from the net. That gives me a huge advantage because it takes a lot of speed off the ball and they’re getting pushed out farther away from the net so I have more time to react.”
Towson’s victory clinches the team a berth in the 2017 NCAA Tournament which will begin next weekend.
This story will be updated with coverage on Towson’s opponent and the team’s run in the tournament in The Towerlight’s upcoming issue.
Jordan Cope contributed to this story.