May 3, 2013

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Towson Potential Bid Thief with Wascavage in Cage

by Gary Lambrecht | LaxMagazine.com

Towson senior goalie and co-captain Andrew Wascavage has performed with success from start to finish this season and the Tigers are in the CAA title for the first time in three years.
© John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com

There is little chance unranked Towson University would be preparing to play for an improbable Colonial Athletic Association championship Friday at No. 9 Penn State without second-line midfielder Ben McCarty.

In Wednesday's 11-8 upset over second-seeded Drexel in the CAA tournament semifinals, McCarty, a redshirt freshman, needed just seven shots to stun the Dragons with a career-high six goals. That outburst, which doubled McCarty's goal-scoring this spring, lifted third-seeded Towson (9-7) into the CAA title game for the first time in three years.

Yet, looking at the long view of the 2013 season, which began with a loss to High Point and an 0-3 start, the reason the Tigers are within one victory of their first NCAA tournament appearance since 2007 is clear.

Senior goalie and co-captain Andrew Wascavage, who has performed with numbing success from start to finish this season, was his typical self against Drexel with 14 saves. He has recorded at least 10 saves in every game in 2013, and Wascavage was the backbone of a defense that held Drexel (11-4) to single digits for only the fourth time this year.

"We knew [Drexel] is a very good offensive team, but we were confident we could do this," said Wascavage, who has averaged 14 saves per game and helped the Tigers take an 8-3 lead early in the third quarter. "I was on fire in the first half, made a couple of saves early in the second half and [the Dragons] went on a run. I just focus on staying consistent."

On a night when the Tigers won only three of 22 faceoff chances and gave up 44 shots, Towson was bailed out by one of the more underrated defenses in the country, a unit that includes all-CAA first-team defenseman John Fennessey and second-team defenseman JoJo Ostrander.

Interestingly, Wascavage, who ranks third in the nation in save percentage (.611), did not make the all-conference team. Part of that is due to CAA Player of the Year and Penn State goalie Austin Kaut, who is second in save percentage (.629) and leads the nation in goals-allowed average (6.95). Hofstra freshman Chris Selva (.602) grabbed second-team league honors.

Hofstra didn't even make the CAA tournament. Towson is 60 minutes away from going to the NCAAs, should they solve Kaut and the Nittany Lions' stout defense.

It's not as if Wascavage has come on with a late-season charge. He's the main reason the Tigers stayed afloat early. He's the main reason Towson has won nine of its last 13 games. Without Wascavage, the Tigers are not flirting with a remarkable turnaround story.

Penn State (12-3) is a lock to make the NCAA tournament with an at-large bid, should the Lions suffer a loss. Wouldn't it be something if Towson made that happen and got in as an automatic qualifier, with Wascavage getting the last word on that CAA vote count?

"I'm not looking at this game as one goalie against the other," Wascavage said. "Our defense is getting it done. I know how good I can play. I know what I expect from myself."

Patriot Games

Speaking of all-conference honors, the Patriot League champion Lehigh Mountain Hawks, having gone through the league undefeated in the regular season after winning the PL tournament a year ago, were a little miffed at the voting returns.

Lehigh led the way with seven selectees, although PL goalie of the year Matt Poillon and senior defenseman Mike Noone was the only first-teamers. The offense earned three second-team votes — midfielders Patrick Corbett and team captain Brian Hess and senior attackman David DiMaria.

Hess and Lehigh coach Kevin Cassese were especially puzzled by DiMaria's placement.

"David was the leading point scorer [68] in a league we went undefeated against as defending champions, and he was coming off a great year," Cassese said. "He should have been offensive player of the year and he should be a Tewaaraton [Award] finalist."

"It's an absolute joke," Hess said, referring to DiMaria's second-team position.

DiMaria declined to make much of it. But, when asked if the voting had anything to do with his PL tournament MVP performance — he dropped five points each on blowout victims Colgate and Bucknell — DiMaria said, "It's in the past. But I used that as a motivator."

Stock up, stock down

Talk about some teams moving in opposite directions. With its second rout over No. 6 Notre Dame in five days, fifth-ranked Syracuse is making a strong case for a top four seed, should the Orange (12-3) win the Big East tournament.

Syracuse dumped the Irish (10-4) in Wednesday's Big East semifinal by holding Notre Dame scoreless for 35 minutes in a 9-3 laugher. In Saturday's regular-season finale for both schools, the Irish scored once in the final 34:27 of a 10-4 Syracuse blowout.

Because of its quality wins, strength of schedule and RPI rating, the Irish might still retain a top four seed.

The same can't be said for No. 8 Maryland (9-3). One month ago, the Terps appeared headed for a possible No. 1 or No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament with the most balanced team in the nation.

But Maryland has gone 3-3 in its past six outings, and last week's 13-6 clunker against unranked Virginia was a damaging loss.

The Terps have lost their way offensively. Turnovers have combined with shaky shooting and shot selection to make Maryland look strangely ordinary. The Terps have averaged just 7.6 goals in their past six games.

On Saturday, Maryland probably must beat unranked Colgate to nail down a home game in the first round of the NCAA tournament.


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