The Delaware Blue Hens topped the host team Towson Tigers, 12-9, for the CAA Championship and the Automatic Qualifier for the NCAA Tournament.
----From Press Release----
TOWSON, Md. -- The University of Delaware men’s lacrosse squad is headed back to the NCAA Tournament for the third time in sixth years thanks to another big effort Saturday as the Blue Hens, backed by a record-setting five goals from Curtis Dickson (bottom left) and a season-high 16 saves from tournament Most Valuable Player Noah Fossner (bottom right), survived a frantic final quarter on the way to a 12-9 win over No. 20 Towson in the Colonial Athletic Association Championship game at Unitas Stadium.
The Blue Hens (10-6), who won their fifth straight game, captured their first title since the 2007 season when they also defeated Towson on its home field in the title game on the way to its only NCAA Final Four appearance. The conference title was the 22nd in school history for the Blue Hens, who will find out Sunday who their first round opponent will be in the NCAA Tournament which begins next weekend.
Dickson tallied five goals, include two crucial scores in a 48 second span early in the fourth quarter, and Fossner, the tournament Most Valuable Player, came up with his biggest save of the season with just over two minutes remaining and the Hens hanging on for dear life to pace to key the victory.
“It’s been an unbelievable season so far and we’re excited that we have the opportunity to keep it going,” said Delaware head coach Bob Shillinglaw, who will lead the Hens into the NCAA Tournament for the fifth time in school history. “This team is so close - one of the best groups we’ve ever had. Four weeks ago we had our backs to the wall and every game was a must win. Today was no different. But we came out focused and determined. We’ve had to deal with some things this year, but we rallied around that today.”
Dickson, the NCAA Division I leader in goals and points and a candidate for the Tewaaraton Trophy as the national player of the year, extended those numbers on Saturday as he upped his season total to 62 and passed Randy Powers (1983-86) as the all-time career goals leader in Delaware history with 162. He also netted his NCAA-leading 12th hat trick of the season - including his sixth straight - and extended streaks to 25 straight games with a goal and 56 straight with a point.
Kevin Kaminski and John Austin each added two goals for the Blue Hens while Grant Kaleikau dished out three assists - his 12th straight game with a point - and Dan Cooney scored his first goal of the season and won his first nine faceoff attempts on the way to 15-5 day at the circle. Delaware held a commanding 40-22 edge in groundballs. Dickson, Fossner, Cooney, and sophomore longstick midfielder Taylor Burns all were named to the CAA All-Tournament team.
No. 20 ranked Towson, the tournament’s top seed and a 9-7 winner over the Blue Hens back on Apr. 3 on the same field, ended its season at 7-8 and had a three-game win streak snapped. Will Harrington led Towson with two goals and an assist while Stephen Norris scored twice, Tim Stratton dished out three assists, and Brock Armour added two helpers.
Delaware led from start to finish, but it was never easy in a game featured two rivals that have faced each other 59 times. The Hens outscored the Tigers 6-1 in the second quarter to head into halftime up 7-4 and shut out Towson in the third quarter to take a 9-4 advantage into the final stanza.
But the Tigers were not about to give up. Taking advantage of several Delaware penalties, Towson scored three straight man-up goals in the first three minutes of the final stanza with Harringtons’ tally at the 11:50 mark cutting the Delaware margin to 9-7.
As he has done all season, Dickson rescued the Blue Hens once again as he fired in a rocket from 20 yards out with 11:34 left to play to give the Hens some breathing room and scored again just 42 seconds later off a feed from Kaleikau to make it 11-7.
“We were sitting back in the fourth quarter and they got a couple on us,” said Dickson. “We knew we needed a few more goals to win it and just went hard to the net. All the records weren’t in my mind today but they are great. Today this win means a heck of a lot more.”
Towson rallied again, getting consecutive goals from Carl Iacona with 10:20 left to play and another man-up goal from Stratton at the 7:01 mark the narrow the gap to 11-9.
Neither team managed another strong scoring opportunity for nearly five minutes before Fossner came up with the play of the game with the Hens clinging to a two-goal lead. After making a save on a shot by Harrington with 2:26 left, Fossner sent an outlet pass to teammate Tim Langmaid who ran to the middle of the field but lost the handle.
Towson’s Christian Pastirik picked up the groundball and fired a pass to a wide-open Stratton alone in front of the net. Stratton faked the shot several times, but when he finally let it go at point-blank range, Fossner got a piece of the ball for the key save at the 2:06 mark.
Delaware then iced the win as Austin scored on an open net with 1:05 left to play to secure the title. A minute later, the Blue Hens stormed the field and mobbed Fossner near the goal.
“I just tried to follow his feat,” said Fossner of the pivotal play. “I was fortunate to get a piece of the ball. I looked back to make sure the net wasn’t moving and I heard the cheers. I just put my hands up. You can never let your guard down in this game and we were fortunate to run out the clock.”
Fossner enjoyed his second straight big effort in what has been one of the most emotional weeks of his life. His mother, Elaine, passed away at the age of 57 Sunday after a long battle with breast cancer and Noah played just three days later, posting 14 saves in a 15-12 CAA semifinal win over No. 9 ranked Drexel Wednesday.
“He is at the top of his game,” said Shillinglaw of his goalkeeper. “A lot of it has to do with confidence. Noah is hard on himself but I think he is relaxing more and enjoying the game. He has really come on since mid-season.”
Shillinglaw, now in his 35th season as a head coach, including his 32nd at Delaware, could not say enough about this year’s Blue Hen team.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever had a group of guys who cared so much about each other,” said Shillinglaw. “Each group comes and you live and die with them. Their time goes by so quickly here and you want them to experience something like this. This is fantastic. We are playing well and I hope we can get a run going and keep on winning.”
Shots: Delaware - 37, Towson - 35;
Groundballs: D - 40, T - 22;
Faceoffs: D - 16, T - 7;
Clears: D - 17 of 20, T - 16 of 19;
Extra Man Goals: D - 2 for 4, T - 4 for 7;
Penalties: D - 2 for 4, T - 4 for 9;
Saves: D - 16 (Noah Fossner), T - 11 (Travis Love, 58:20 min., 11 goals, 11 saves; David Edens, 1:40 min., 1 goals, 0 saves); Turnovers: D - 14, T - 13;
|Tim Stratton||(0, 3)|
|Will Harrington||(2, 1)|
|Stephen Norris||(2, 0)|
|Brock Armour||(0, 2)|
|David Edens||(1, 0)|
|Matt Hughes||(1, 0)|
|Christian Pastirik||(1, 0)|
|Carl Iacona||(1, 0)|
|Pat Britton||(1, 0)|
|Travis Love||11 (0.500)|
|David Edens||0 (0.000)|