Towson one step from Final 4 after marching by Duke

Tigers' 12-10 win sends them into quarterfinals vs. UM

May 13, 2001|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

The Towson Tigers are a young, athletic lacrosse team that occasionally drives its coach crazy with fundamental breakdowns and silly mistakes.

The Tigers also are a gutty bunch that has created an amazing turnaround and has crept within one victory of a trip to the Final Four of the NCAA men's lacrosse tournament.

In its first playoff appearance in five years before 4,116 at UMBC Stadium yesterday, Towson got a major boost from its unheralded midfield, inspired efforts from injured faceoff specialist Justin Berry and goalie John Horrigan, and used its dangerous fast break to counter Duke's muscle.

And after the Tigers put the finishing touches on a 12-10 victory, which sends them into a quarterfinal battle against Maryland at Byrd Stadium next Sunday, Towson coach Tony Seaman could only marvel at the precocious nature of a squad that has won more games than any other team in the school's 21-year Division I history.

Towson (13-3), which starts only two seniors and carries six on its 42-man roster, was 3-10 last year. The Tigers lost to Maryland, 9-7, on March 10. The Tigers have won 11 of 12 games since.

"I enjoy the way we play. We go up and down [the field]. Sometimes we throw the ball away. Sometimes we frustrate you with the things we do," Seaman said. "But at 13-3, we're doing a few things right. These kids have come out of nowhere. There is no quit in them."

Towson, the sixth seed in the NCAA tournament, never trailed against the Blue Devils (11-6). And the Tigers showed their resourcefulness against a bulky Duke defense that was resolved to shut down Towson's attack.

Into the void stepped the Tigers' midfield to score seven goals, including three each from Josh Tankersley and Brian Myers, who came into the contest with 14 on the season. Sophomore attackman Ryan Obloj scored three times. His final goal, off a perfect, behind-the-net pass by middie Brad Monaco that resulted in a point-blank shot, gave the Tigers a 12-9 lead and essentially ended Duke's season with 2:14 left.

The wounded outplayed the healthy. Horrigan, nursing an ailing left shoulder that has cut into his practice time, stepped up to record 16 saves, including 11 in the first half. Horrigan's save of Kevin Brennan's shot with three minutes left preserved Towson's 11-9 lead and started the sequence that ended with Obloj's clincher.

While Horrigan was getting the best of Duke senior goalie Matt Breslin (13 saves), Berry showed remarkable resolve in the faceoff circle, despite a pulled left hamstring. Berry, mostly battling Scott Bross, widely considered the premier faceoff man in the nation, won 15 of 26 attempts, including four of six in the fourth quarter.

"It's nice to be on a team where there are no real individual standouts," said Horrigan, a senior who suffered through three losing seasons before the magical run in 2001. "There's always somebody going for the goal, or somebody making a play on defense. The feeling was absolutely awesome today."

Towson, which bolted to a 4-1 lead, with Tankersley, Myers and midfielder Josh Cornett scoring, had to adjust to Duke's physical, deliberate style of play. That helped Duke, led by Alex Lieske (four goals) and Chris Hartofilis (three goals), rally to tie the game twice at 6-6 and 8-8.

But the Tigers, who survived a sloppy third quarter in which they committed turnovers on four straight possessions and took only six shots, countered with opportunistic transition scores, some impressive one-on-one moves that led to goals, and raw speed.

Towson also took advantage of two occasions when Duke literally stumbled over the net. Attackman Brad Reppert broke a 6-6 tie with 4:27 left in the first half by blowing past defenseman Stuart Schwartz, after he got tangled up in the back of the Duke goal. The same thing happened four minutes later to defenseman Dan Hauber. He fell while trailing Obloj, who then circled the crease and beat Breslin to give Towson a halftime lead of 8-6."[Duke] might be big, but we're much faster than them," Obloj said. "They couldn't run with us."

Duke 3 3 2 2 - 10 Towson 4 4 1 3 - 12

Goals: D - Lieske 4, Hartofilis 3, Keaney 2, Patchak; T - Tankersley 3, Obloj 3, Myers 3, Reppert, Cornett, Campbell. Assists: D - Patchak 2, Brennan 2, t.Wray, D.Wray; T - Reppert 2, Campbell, Monaco. Saves: D - Breslin 13; T - Horrigan 16.

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