As the Little League team the Kekambas from the movie “Hardball” would say, “We goin’ to the ship!”
In an incredible performance, the Drexel men’s lacrosse team overcame a three-goal deficit in the fourth quarter to pull off an unlikely victory over Towson University.
The Dragons got out to a fast start, with two goals in the first 1:12, one by a rejuvenated red shirt freshman Cole Shafer and another by Colonial Athletic Association Men’s Lacrosse Player of the Year, senior Ben McIntosh.
A few minutes later, Towson responded, prompting a Shafer response to bring the game to 3-1. Towson answered once again, ending the quarter trailing 3-2.
The second period was considerably less favorable for the home team, as Towson’s ability to score on the counterattack reared its ugly head. The Tigers caught up and they caught up fast. They scored three goals in as many minutes to pull out to a one-goal lead and added another before the half was over. Senior Nick Trizano netted a late goal to bring the game to a 6-5 halftime score.
The third quarter almost spelled downfall for the Dragons.
The team resorted to its pre-winning-streak ways, being sloppy with the ball, not protecting the net well enough on counterattacks and poorly rotating on offense. They started the quarter with a quick Shafer goal, tying the game up at 6-6, but that was the last positive play for the team in the period.
Towson went on a quick run, scoring three goals and holding the Dragons scoreless for the rest of the period to go up by three going into the fourth quarter leading 9-6.
At this point, hopes seemed low for the Dragons as they were unable to get any offensive momentum going and continually allowed good scoring chances for the Tigers.
Following a Towson timeout with 10:37 to play, McIntosh took the reins, leading his team to offensive output once again. He ripped a goal past Towson goaltender Tyler White to cut the deficit to two goals.
A little over four minutes later, McIntosh once again put the team on his back to bring the deficit to one goal, 9-8 with 3:35 remaining in the game. The goal gave McIntosh a hat trick in the game, making two Drexel players with that mark, the other being Shafer.
Shafer soon one-upped the senior McIntosh, scoring his fourth of the game to tie the game at 9 with fewer than three minutes left.
Not to be outdone by the young guy, McIntosh responded with another goal of his own, bringing his tally to four for the day and giving the Dragons a one-goal lead with 1:20 remaining.
Towson quickly responded, tying the game up just before the end of regulation and forcing overtime.
Fewer than two minutes into overtime, Drexel head coach Brian Voelker called a timeout with the Dragons possessing in the Towson zone. The tension and excitement in the air was palpable along the sidelines and in the huddle.
Quickly after the timeout, the Dragons came out and passed the ball around the Towson net. The Towson defense was unable to shift with the impeccable ball movement of the Dragon offense. A quick pass to junior Ryan Belka found him open enough to shoot on net, and he pulled the trigger in a big way. The ball hit the back of the net, thrusting the Dragons into the finals of the CAA tournament.
With that goal, the Dragons propelled their winning streak to yet another game. With their seventh straight win, the team not only punched their ticket to a Saturday meeting against Hofstra University in the finals of the CAA, but they also cemented their status as a contender for an at-large bid in the National Collegiate Athletic Association Tournament.
While not guaranteed, a chance at an at-large bid means that even a loss in the finals of the CAA tournament doesn’t necessarily mean exclusion from the NCAA Tournament. Throughout the year, the Dragons have proved themselves worthy of a chance in the “big dance,” and hopefully a seven-game winning streak filled with mostly dominating performances will prove this to the NCAA.
In their last meeting against Hofstra, the Dragons lost 11-9. Interestingly enough, that’s also the last time the Dragons lost a game at all. That loss came back on March 22 at home and the Dragons put up quite a fight against the Pride before falling in the two-goal loss.
The difference between the March 22 version of the Dragons and now is tremendous, so past results don’t really matter. The Dragons are playing quicker, more aggressive lacrosse, and Will Gabrielsen is playing as well in-goal as any other goalie in the country. Through the winning streak, the team has become an offensive juggernaut with a resilient defense behind it, causing fits to any and all teams unfortunate enough to be scheduled against them.
Victories like this one are enough to propel teams through the postseason. The Dragons have to believe that they can beat anyone with this incredible effort and will go into Saturday’s game riding high. It’s advantageous to their cause that the break between games is so short, as they may be able to ride their momentum to a quick start against the Pride and finally make their way into the NCAA Tournament.
Notably from this game, two of the cornerstones of the Dragons offense came up huge. Shafer and McIntosh both scored four goals and seemed unwilling to allow the team to end their season on a bad note. They were simply unstoppable throughout the game, with McIntosh becoming particularly inspired in the fourth quarter, willing the team to victory.
With performances of that caliber, the team will almost certainly cause trouble for Hofstra and hopefully multiple opponents after that in the “big dance.”
The Dragons travel to Hofstra to play for the CAA Championship May 3 at 7 p.m.