Drexel, Looking to Make History, Beats Towson to Continue Hot Streak
TOWSON, Md. — In what has been an endless attempt to make the NCAA tournament for the Drexel men's lacrosse program, the 2014 edition of the Dragons continues to position itself in the national conversation once again.
Could this year finally be it?
No. 16 Drexel improved to 9-4 overall and 4-1 in the CAA to clinch the second seed in the conference post-season tournament with a 13-7 win over unranked Towson on Saturday night at Johnny Unitas Stadium.
"We've been harping all week on what this game meant, trying to get a home playoff game in a week and a half," Drexel coach Brian Voelker said. "The kids, the way that played today, proved it."
It was 5-4 at halftime, but Drexel broke it open with five goals in the third. Redshirt freshman attackman Cole Shafer scored his fifth goal of the night, on his seventh shot, on the tail-end of an extra-man opportunity to make it 10-5 with 4:01 left in the third quarter. Drexel added three more in the fourth to close it out.
With Hofstra's 11-6 win over UMass on Saturday night in other CAA action, the Pride wrapped up the top spot for the league post-season tournament. Drexel comes in second. Each will host semifinal games against teams to be determined, but Towson (8-5, 2-3 CAA) has also already clinched a post-season spot and could end up facing the Dragons again.
Drexel is trying to make its first NCAA tournament ever. The win over Towson was the Dragons' fifth straight.
"Keep rolling," Shafer said of the mood on the team. "We haven't really done anything in Drexel history."
Towson largely limited Drexel's leading scorer Ben McIntosh, who finished with just a goal for his 35th of the year, but another Coquitlam, B.C., native stepped up in his place. Shafer canned his looks as the Dragons move the ball around efficiently, racking up 41 shots and getting goals from five different players. Nick Trizano had a hat trick and midfielder Ryan Belka had two goals and three assists.
"With us, it's not really about who is doing it," Voelker said. "We really zipped the ball around, and buried some opportunities. Ben has carried a little bit at times when we've had some lulls and he didn't need to tonight."
It also helped having a big night from faceoff man Nick Saputo, who won 15 of 23 against three different Towson specialists. Tigers sophomore Jed Yousefi ended up with the best results for Towson, going 5-for-10.
"Nick has done such a great job all year," Voelker said. "We hit a stretch in the mid-part of the season where he was winning a ton of faceoffs and we weren't taking care of the ball, and it didn't do us any good to win the faceoffs. We seemed to have gotten that out of our system. We're a tough team to beat when we win faceoffs and take care of the ball."
In the key third quarter, Drexel went on a three-goal run over the first seven minutes and went ahead 8-4 when Saputo won a faceoff to himself, streaked down midfield, drew a slide and dished to Shafer for his fifth goal.
Towson was in striking distance through the first half. And trailing by one on the final possession of the second quarter, set up a play for the equalizer but a Ryan Drenner try short-side was turned away by Drexel goalie Will Gabrielson.
Out of halftime, Saputo won the opening faceoff of the second half on procedure and Towson went man-down less than a minute into the final 30 minutes. Trizano scored the first of what became three man-up goals for Drexel in the second half.
"You come out of the half, you're right in the game, you lose the faceoff on a procedure and then you get a penalty," Towson coach Shawn Nadelen said. "We really couldn't get the ball out of the defensive end and possess it."
Drexel out-ground balled Towson 32-21 in what Voelker considered one of the more impressive wins of the Dragons' season. It continues on with a non-conference game against High Point on Friday night before the CAA tournament begins April 30.
"The goal is to play well at the end of the year," he said. "We've been building on it, trying to get better every time out. We're doing our best to peak at the right time. It was probably our most complete game of the year. We had a stretch a few games ago where we would sloppy with the ball. We weren't sloppy tonight. We have to celebrate it for a little bit and put it behind us."
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