Towson claims first CAA title since 2005 in narrow win against No. 9 Penn State
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Towson withstood a late rally from No. 9 Penn State to defeat the Nittany Lions 11-10 and claim its first Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) title since 2005 Friday at PSU Lacrosse Field.
PSU outscored Towson 4-3 in the fourth quarter to try and rally from an 8-6 deficit at the end of the third. The game was tightly contested until late in the second quarter and into the third when the Tigers broke it open with a five-goal run.
Towson was making its first appearance in a CAA final since 2010, when the Tigers fell to Delaware 12-9 on May 8. The championship win gives Towson its fourth title in nine appearances at the CAA tournament. Towson’s Thomas DeNapoli, Jordan Fortmann and Ben McCarty were named to the All-Tournament team. Senior goalkeeper Andrew Wascavage received Most Outstanding Player. It is Head Coach Shawn Nadelen’s first CAA championship.
Sophomore Greg Cuccinello’s second hat trick of the season led the Tigers. He also had one assist. DeNapoli added two goals and two assists, while senior Matt Hughes scored two goals.
TJ Sanders’s three goals led the Nittany Lions. Jack Forster and Shane Sturgis each posted two goals. Goalie Austin Kaut made six saves.
McCarty opened the game’s scoring with his seventh goal in two games off a pass from DeNapoli at 11:10 in the first quarter. The Tigers took a 2-0 lead at 10:25 when sophomore Cuccinello beat PSU’s Kaut middle right.
Penn State struck back with a three-goal run starting at 9:28, getting scores from Forster, Kyle VanThof and Steven Bogert. But DeNapoli cut short the rally with his 40th goal of the season at 2:05. Hughes caused a Penn State turnover, picked up the ground ball and fed it to DeNapoli for the score. Hughes capped the quarter with his seventh goal of the year with one second left.
The Nittany Lions started the second quarter on another three-goal rally when Forster connected with Tom LaCrosse on a fast break at 13:53. Sanders scored at 11:11 and Gavin Ahern followed at 10:18 to give PSU a 6-4 lead.
Junior Andrew Hodgson notched a goal for Towson at 6:59 when Towson worked the ball around the back of the net to Cuccinello who fed Hodgson. He dodged a defender and beat Kaut high to low from 12 yards out. His goal inched Towson within one at 6-5 and Mabus’ tally at 4:28 pulled the Tigers even at six.
Cuccinello started the third quarter with a score at 12:30 to put Towson up 7-6 before Hodgson scored just eight minutes later to give the Tigers an 8-6 advantage they carried into the fourth quarter.
The final frame saw a total of seven goals – four in the final four minutes. Cuccinello posted his final goal of the game at 13:19 from 13 yards out, but the Lions showed they still had some fight when Sanders scored his 41st of the season 45 seconds later. Hughes answered with his second of the game when freshman Dan Livingston cleared the ball and passed to a waiting Hughes right in front of the goal. The score put Towson up three 10-7.
Towson was whistled for a slash at 4:54 and Penn State capitalized just 24 seconds into the penalty with a Sturgis goal at 4:31 to make it 10-8. DeNapoli posted his 41st goal of the year at 2:33. His unassisted goal increased the Tigers’ lead to 11-8, giving Towson just enough breathing room to withstand Penn State goals from Sturgis and Sanders at 2:14 and 1:42, respectively.
With the win, the Tigers earned the CAA’s automatic bid into the NCAA tournament.