Hofstra at Towson: Three things to watch

No. 19 Pride enjoying 24-18 advantage in series, but host Tigers have won three of their last four games

March 30, 2013|By Edward Lee, The Baltimore Sun

Hofstra owns a 24-18 lead against its Colonial Athletic Association rival, but Towson ended a four-game losing skid with a 10-9 decision in double overtime last year. The No. 19 Pride (6-3, 1-1 in the CAA) have quality wins against No. 1 Notre Dame and Fairfield, but they have also dropped two of their last three contests. Exhaustion could also be a concern for Hofstra, which has played four games in 11 days. The Tigers (5-5, 1-0) have rebounded from a 0-3 start. Thomas DeNapoli has recorded nine goals and five assists in the team’s last four contests, and the junior attackman ranks 15th in Division I with 2.7 goals per game. Here are a few factors that could influence the outcome at Johnny Unitas Stadium on Saturday night.

1) Towson’s offense vs. Hofstra’s defense. The Tigers are scoring an average of just 8.4 goals, but they have benefitted greatly from the contributions of DeNapoli, sophomore attackman Cory Dobyns (seven goals and two assists in the last four games) and junior midfielder Andrew Hodgson (6, 1). The offense will be challenged by a Pride defense that leads the country in allowing just 6.6 goals per contest. “There’s going to be a few different ways to approach it,” Towson coach Shawn Nadelen said of attacking Hofstra. “Systematically, they’re a very good team that is disciplined in what they do. They’re structured and they allow limited opportunities for offenses. So we’ve got to be able to potentially generate some transition looks, but within our six-on-six half-field sets, we’ve got to be able to be patient while we’re being aggressive. We’re not trying to make rushed decisions. We want to work for good opportunities and try to wear them down.”

2) Towson’s man-up offense vs. Hofstra’s man-down defense. One area in which the Tigers might be able to make a dent is when they get extra-man opportunities. The man-up unit has converted 33.3 percent (13-of-39) of its chances and Dobyns leads the team with seven man-up goals. But the Pride ranks ninth in the nation in man-down defense, shutting down 77.4 percent (24-of-31) of opponents’ extra-man opportunities. “I think going into this game, it’s always something that you pride yourself on in special teams,” Nadelen said. “… Our guys are going to have to be sharp, they’re going to have to be disciplined, and we’re really going to have to work the ball well to get a good opportunity on-cage.”

3) Towson’s man-down defense vs. Hofstra’s man-up offense. The Pride entered the week ranked 11th in the country in extra-man chances, succeeding at a 42.4 rate (14-of-33) this season. That doesn’t bode well for a Tigers man-down unit that has surrendered 13 goals in 34 opportunities. But Towson did shut out UMBC and Delaware, turning away a combined eight extra-man situations. The onus will be on the team, which is averaging 3.4 penalties thus far, to avoid committing fouls that put the defense at a disadvantage. “We try to do that every game,” Nadelen said. “We try to stay aggressive, but disciplined in our efforts on the field. If we do go man-down, we’re going to have to buckle in. Against Delaware, we did a good job of that.”

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