Tigers tame Smith, Hens

Towson 11 Delaware 7

March 26, 2006|By KENT BAKER | KENT BAKER,SUN REPORTER

Controlling faceoffs is a crucial element in lacrosse, so it appeared Towson might be in for a rugged game against Delaware last night at Johnny Unitas Stadium.

The 13th-ranked Blue Hens came calling with Alex Smith (Boys' Latin) sitting atop the nation in faceoff percentage, and the pressure was on his Tigers counterpart.

But Matt Eckerl (Calvert Hall) was up for the challenge, winning 11 of 19 draws to help spark Towson to an 11-7 Colonial Athletic Association victory before 1,421 chilled fans.

"Matt Eckerl was unbelievable against the best guy in the country, the guy with stats all over the place," said Towson coach Tony Seaman, whose team entered the game ranked No. 20. "He only lost to the referees four times [on procedure calls]. Other than that, he dominated."

A big assist was provided by Towson goalie Mark DeGroat, who weathered a shaky start to pitch in with a commendable performance against a Delaware team that was leading the CAA in scoring.

Delaware (8-2, 0-1 CAA) jumped in front 2-0 just over 2 1/2 minutes into the game on goals by Adam Zuder-Havens and top scorer Cam Howard, the second in an extra-man situation.

Then, Eckerl's faceoff work and DeGroat's ability to settle down quickly changed the tenor of the game. Delaware didn't aid its cause either with some sloppy stickwork that resulted in 20 turnovers.

DeGroat, a fifth-year senior who redshirted last season, said he "felt a lot more comfortable" this time after some early season problems. "I definitely saw the ball the best I have. They got some quick ones on me, but once I got into a rhythm, it looked as big as a beach ball."

Towson (4-3, 2-0), which beat the Blue Hens, 9-8, for the conference tournament title last season, took charge in the second period, scoring four times for a three-goal halftime lead.

Goals by Nick Williams (Calvert Hall), Justin Schneider (St. Mary's), Eckerl and Phil Grillo (Loyola) peppered Blue Hens goalie Tommy Scherr (Mount St. Joseph), who made several point-blank saves to keep his team in contention until the final minutes.

"Their goalie really kept them in the game," Seaman said.

Delaware closed to within 8-6 on an extra-man goal by Marty Kupprion when a shot by teammate Vincent Giordano grazed his stick and beat DeGroat at the 7.02 mark of the third period. It would get no closer as Towson won for the 29th time in 30 games while scoring in double digits.

"I finally feel 100 percent," Eckerl said. "My hamstring was bothering me and my thumb was bothering me a little bit. But I had a good week of practice and finally got back on my game."

He said he has often gone against Smith who "has that target on his checks. When you go against him, it makes you want to put forth that little extra effort."

The win was important because winning the CAA is Towson's best shot for postseason play.

"That's our automatic ticket," Eckerl said.

"This is the first step," DeGroat added. "You get home-field advantage for the CAA tournament if you win the regular season."

Kyle Batton (Dulaney) and Keith Obloj each contributed two goals, and Brian Vetter, Bobby Griebe and Todd MacMullan had one each for a well-balanced Tigers offense.

kent.baker@baltsun.com

Delaware 4 1 1 1 -- 7

Towson 4 4 1 2 -- 11

Goals: D--Zuder-Havens 3, Howard 2, Giordano, Kupprion; T--Batton 2, Obloj 2, Grillo, Vetter, Eckerl, Griebe, Williams, MacMullan, Schneider. Assists: D--Deckelbaum, Giordano, Hall, Kupprion, Moran, Zuder-Havens; T--Cittadino 2, Bacon, Batton, Grillo. Saves: D--Scherr 14; T--DeGroat 7.

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