Men's Lacrosse

Syracuse men’s lacrosse opponent preview: What to know about No. 11 Towson

Ally Moreo | Photo Editor

Towson's stingy defense and past ability to upset higher-ranked teams makes the Tigers a tough test for Syracuse. The Orange, after all, has lost its last two NCAA tournament quarterfinal matchups.

No. 2 Syracuse (13-2, 4-0 Atlantic Coast) travels to Delaware Stadium in Newark, Delaware, to take on No. 11 Towson in the NCAA quarterfinals on Sunday at noon. SU enters the matchup after nearly losing to Yale in the opening round of the NCAA tournament and is searching for its first Final Four appearance since 2013. Towson (11-4, 4-1 Colonial Athletic) upset Penn State in the opening round, ending the game on a 5-1 run.

Here’s what you need to know about the Tigers ahead of the Sunday matchup.

All-time series: Syracuse leads, 9-2

Last time they played: The then-No. 1 Orange last played Towson in 2000, as the eventual national champions opened up the game with three goals in the first 44 seconds in an eventual 10-3 victory. Syracuse lacrosse star Ryan Powell finished the game with a pair of goals and six assists, while SU’s Mike Springer finished with a hat trick. Goalie Rob Mulligan saved 23 Towson shots, finishing the game with an 88.5 save percentage.

The Towson Report: Towson entered the year as the preseason No. 12 and currently boasts the nation’s No. 3 defense. The Tigers do have four losses, but that includes a loss to Ohio State and a one-goal defeat to Denver.

Towson’s defense allows just 7.47 goals per game and is led by junior defender Sid Ewell and sophomore defender Chad Patterson. The two have started every game this season and combine for 21 caused turnovers and 44 ground balls. But the leader in caused turnovers is senior long-stick midfielder Tyler Mayes, who has 37 caused turnovers — 23 more than the No. 2 player. Short-stick defensive midfielder Zach Goodrich has strung together a successful sophomore campaign, earning second-team All-American honors. Goodrich finished with 14 caused turnovers (second on team) and 44 ground balls (also second).

Stingy defense is Towson’s best attribute as the team ranks in the bottom half in offense, scoring just fewer than 9.5 goals per game. Senior Ryan Drenner will be the focus of the Syracuse defense, as senior All-American Scott Firman will be tasked with guarding the attack. Drenner leads the team with 51 points, plays the quarterback role and has 27 goals to go with 24 assists.

Senior attack Joe Seider leads the Tigers with 28 goals and is known for his ability to shoot from anywhere on the field.

“That’s someone I definitely want to wait for the ball,” SU goalie Evan Molloy said, “Really just focus on the ball when (Seider’s) shooting, get a good look at it.”

Like Yale last week, Towson is another team that thrives at the faceoff X. Sophomore Alex Woodall has dominated in his first season with the Tigers, boasting a 60.9 faceoff winning percentage, ninth in the country. His success could be the difference maker in Sunday’s matchup.

How Syracuse beats Towson: The Achilles’ Heel to Syracuse has been its inconsistency at the faceoff X. Ben Williams finished the opening round of the NCAA tournament an abysmal 1-of-12, as Syracuse barely escaped with a one-goal win. Freshman Danny Varello has been a nice fill-in when Williams struggles, but he too finished just 3-of-10 against Yale. For Syracuse to not have to battle back, and potentially miss out on the Final Four for the fourth straight year, success at the faceoff X is vital.

“(Woodall) brings a different dynamic in regards to what he does at the X,” Towson head coach Sean Nadelen said, “because of his size plus his speed and quickness.”

The other major shift will come on offense. Scoring has never been a large issue for Syracuse, as the balanced attack boasts six able-bodied scorers on the starting line. But breaking through a top-three defense like Towson — especially with an inconsistent faceoff game — will be key for SU.

Jordan Evans will be relied on to quarterback the offense and Sergio Salcido and Nick Mariano have to step up down the stretch. Salcido and Mariano are first and second on the team in points, respectively, and their ability to both create offense by passing (Salcido has team-best 33 assists) and finishing (Mariano has team-best 34 goals) is key to advancing to the Final Four in Foxborough.

“They have pretty talented players there and they have good players at attack,” Nadelen said. “You leave those guys to double up on Salcido and Mariano, then you’re exposing yourself to maybe their attack getting loose and free by putting a short stick on them.”

Numbers to know:

7.47 — Number of goals Towson allows per game, good for third in the nation

37 — Amount of caused turnovers for long-stick midfielder Tyler Mayes, which is 21 more than SU’s leader, Scott Firman

54.8 — Percentage of man-up opportunities Syracuse converts on, good for second in the nation

8.33 — Number of assists per game for Syracuse’s balanced offense. Passing and creating open opportunities will be key against Towson’s stingy defense

60.9 — Percentage of faceoffs Towson’s Alex Woodall has won, good for ninth in the nation. Syracuse’s FOGO Ben Williams ranks 28th with a 54.1 win percentage

Player to watch: Ryan Drenner, attack, No. 22

The 6-foot, 185-pound senior is the leader of the Towson offense and is SU’s biggest threat come Sunday. The first-team All-CAA attack has played the quarterback role, as seen by his 24 assists, 10 better than the next player. But he is also a dominant finisher, scoring 27 goals, second on the team. The Towson offense is not as deadly as previous teams Syracuse has played, but Drenner could become a problem if taken lightly.


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