May 3, 2013

Wascavage Ignores Snub, Leads Towson to Title

by Mike Still | Special to LaxMagazine.com

Nothing went right for Penn State in the CAA championship game. Towson was a step ahead of them on just about every play as the Tigers posted an 11-10 victory over the Nittany Lions. The victory comes with an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament, Towson's first since 2007.
© Craig Houtz

Andrew Wascavage's phone has been buzzing quite a bit lately.

In the days leading up to Friday's Colonial Athletic Association championship game against top-seeded Penn State, the Towson goalie received plenty of phone calls from Tiger alumni telling him to do whatever it took to go out on top.

When the All-CAA team was announced on Thursday, a list which didn't include Wascavage's name, the senior received a text message from teammate Greg Cuccinello telling him he "got robbed."

Wascavage fired a message right back.

"He responded, 'Yeah, whatever. It means nothing to me. Let's go win a ring,'" Cuccinello said.

Behind Wascavage's 12 saves and stingy second-half defense, Towson defeated the Nittany Lions, 11-10, at the Penn State Lacrosse Field for the CAA title.

Wascavage outshined Penn State goalie Austin Kaut, the conference's Player of the Year, while keeping the Nittany Lions off the scoreboard in a pivotal third quarter.

"Nobody can give you this," Wascavage said at a postgame conference, nodding to the CAA championship trophy resting on the table in front of him. "We earned this. We won the championship, and that's all that matters to me."

The two teams went into the locker room at halftime tied, 6-6. Towson had received each of its six goals from different players, while senior attackman Jack Forster paced Penn State with his 39th and 40th goals of the season.

Right out of the gate in the second half, the Nittany Lions' offense was clearly out of rhythm. The Tigers outshot Penn State, 9-7, in the period and forced a handful a costly turnovers before the Lions could get open looks at the cage.

"Without sugar-coating it whatsoever, it was just awful," said Penn State coach Jeff Tambroni. "The ball never moved out of the original guy's stick, and I'll take full blame for that. We didn't do a good enough job in terms of instructing what needed to be done against Towson's defense."

While Penn State sputtered, the Towson defense stepped up and was aided by goals from Cuccinello and junior Andrew Hodgson.

"Something pretty special is the way these guys believed in each other," said Towson coach Shawn Nadelen. "The way they came out in the third quarter was what really propelled us through the rest of the game, knowing that Penn State is so strong [in the third quarter]."

The Tigers scored five unanswered goals over a span that stretched from midway through the second quarter until the opening minutes of the final period. The five-goal swing put Towson ahead by three.

Kaut, who had posted a 5.46 goals against average and a .704 save percentage in five games leading up to the title game, recorded just six saves on Friday. It was the first game this season that the junior made less than nine stops.

"We have been living off the success of Austin Kaut, and this was clearly not his best day and I think he'd be the first one to admit that," said Tambroni. "...I think at times like this, this is a great learning tool for our guys that there are certain times when guys are going to be off."

The Nittany Lions, who snapped a program best 10 consecutive regular season win streak with the loss, mounted a comeback in the fourth quarter and cut Towson's lead to one with 1:42 remaining in the game.

The Tigers kept Penn State in check during its last possession and easily ran the remaining minute of play off the clock.

"They battled us right to the end, and we knew that was the way it was going to go down," Nadelen said. "What a fantastic championship game...big credit to Penn State for getting to this point. Our guys had to do everything out there to beat them.'

Towson received an automatic berth into the NCAA tournament with the win, its first trip to the tournament since 2007. Assuming there are no huge surprise winners in other conference tournaments this weekend, No. 9 Penn State will likely receive an at-large bid during Sunday's NCAA Selection Show.

After opening the season 0-3, including a loss to first-year program High Point, Towson has won 10 of its last 14 games and will look to keep momentum riding high further into the postseason.

"This has nothing to do with individual offensive players. We play as a team," said Cuccinello. "It has nothing to do with individual defensive players. All 40-something guys on the roster, we love each other...it's incredible. I love these guys. I love this team, and we're not done yet."


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