Towson had never lost a Colonial Athletic Association tournament game before last night. Then, Delaware junior midfielder Dan Deckelbaum ended that winning streak, ruined a great comeback by the Tigers, and most likely ended the Tigers' hopes of making their 10th NCAA men's lacrosse tournament.
With four seconds left in a semifinal contest at Johnny Unitas Stadium, Deckelbaum rolled to his left, used his right arm to break free of Towson midfielder Nick Williams, then bounced a 12-yard shot off goalie Mark DeGroat's knee to lift Delaware to a dramatic 13-12 victory before 1,118.
The victory sends No. 19 Delaware (12-4) into Saturday's CAA title game at No. 2 Hofstra, and it virtually knocks the 11th-ranked Tigers (8-6) out of the NCAA tournament. Towson, CAA champ the previous three years, lost its first conference tournament game in seven tries, and dropped its fourth one-goal decision of the season doing it.
The Tigers, who rallied from an early 7-2 deficit and tied the game twice in the fourth quarter, including a goal by junior midfielder Oliver Bacon with 31 seconds left that evened the score at 12, went 3-4 in one-goal contests this season. Towson leads the country with seven games decided by a goal.
"I think we're done. I don't see much of a chance," said Towson coach Tony Seaman, whose team also suffered one-goal losses to Johns Hopkins, Hofstra and Binghamton. "We've played some really good teams really tough, but you've got to win a couple of them. We had to win the one tonight."
Deckelbaum led the Blue Hens with three goals. Junior attackman Cam Howard had two goals and a game-high five assists, all in a wild first half that was all offense. Sophomore midfielder Brian Vetter led Towson with three goals. Senior attackman Steve Mull had a team-high four assists.
And on a night that often was not kind to either goalie, Delaware sophomore Tommy Scherr (17 saves) stepped up in enough spots to get the best of Towson senior Mark DeGroat (eight saves). The Tigers out-shot Delaware, 48-33. Only top-ranked Virginia, which crushed the Tigers, 14-7, on March 19, scored more goals against Towson than the Blue Hens last night.
"The first shot [Delaware] took, I got a nice save and saw the ball great. From then on [in the first half], they were coming down the lane with no one on them," DeGroat said. "A lot of shots that went in were off my leg, my stick, my helmet. It wasn't my day."
Delaware 5 5 1 2 - 13
Towson 2 6 2 2 - 12
Goals: D- Deckelbaum 3, Howard 2, Hall 2, Zuder-Havens 2, Giordano, Kupprion, Rodriguez, Davis; T-Vetter 3, Grillo 2, Griebe 2, Bacon 2, Williams, Fiat, Eckerl. Assists: D- Howard 5, Calabrese, Giordano, Hall, Smith; T- Mull 4, Grillo 2, Hagelin 2, Bacon, Griebe. Saves: D- Scherr 17; T- DeGroat 8. A-1,118.