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Eulogizing the 2014 College Lacrosse Season: Towson

A six-game winning streak for the Tigers turned into Towson losing five of its last six.

You spent the better part of four months meticulously dissecting the 2014 college lacrosse season. You shouldn't stop now because cold turkey is a bad way to go through life, man. College Crosse is providing decompression snapshots of all 67 teams and their 2014 campaigns, mostly because everything needs a proper burial.

VITAL SIGNS

TOWSON TIGERS
METRIC VALUE NATIONAL RANK
2014 Record 8-7 (2-3, THUNDERDOME!) N/A
2014 Winning Percentage 53.33% 31
2013 Record 10-8 (4-2, THUNDERDOME!) N/A
2013 Winning Percentage 55.56% 24
2014 Adjusted Pythagorean Win Expectation 41.21% 45
2013 Adjusted Pythagorean Win Expectation 50.77% 32
Value Change in Adjusted Pythagorean Win Expectation -9.56% 54*
National Rank Change in Adjusted Pythagorean Win Expectation -13* 57*
2014 Adjusted Offensive Efficiency 30.09 39
2013 Adjusted Offensive Efficiency 29.98 35
Value Change in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency +0.11 39*
National Rank Change in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency -4* 40*
2014 Adjusted Defensive Efficiency 32.73 42
2013 Adjusted Defensive Efficiency 27.72 18
Value Change in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency -5.01 56*
National Rank Change in Defensive Efficiency -23* 58*
Downloadable Team Profile (.pdf)

*These ranking values consider only the programs that competed in the 2013 and 2014 seasons. Accordingly, Boston University, Furman, Monmouth, and Richmond are not considered.

"ATTA BOY!" FACT

Shawn Nadelen is developing a certain kind of identity with Towson: Nails. The Tigers need this kind of character in THUNDERDOME!, a league that values teams that refuse to die even though they're missing arms and are bleeding from the skull and have an eye patch where an eyeball once resided. Towson has overachieved the last two seasons, accumulating records that have exceeded the team's adjusted Pythagorean win expectation based on the team's output over the course of the particular season. This effort -- one that has come in the gripping suffocation of possession deficits partly due to faceoff production that hasn't come close to sniffing the national average -- is important and impressive, one that illustrates the resilience of a program that has bootstrapped itself toward respectability despite circumstances that are designed to keep the Tigers from achieving its goals.

Towson hasn't done just a little better than expected; they've defined their own reality:

"THEN IT'S YOUR CHOICE. THUNDERDOME"
YEAR ADJ. PYTH. WIN EXP. EXPECTED RECORD ACTUAL RECORD
2014 41.21% 6-9 8-7
2013 50.77% 9-9 10-8

When Nadelen took over the program for the 2012 season, the Tigers had just suffered through a year in which the program experienced its worst performance -- record-wise -- since 2000 (the team went 3-10 in both 2011 and 2000). Nadelen, while not elevating Towson into the ranks of the hyper-elite in the national hierarchy, has coaxed an NCAA Tournament appearance out of his club and efforts that have surpassed the team's expected final record. To consistently and almost angrily defy the constructs of what is reasonably attainable, the Tigers have become a kind of force that exists in its own plane. The universe generally recalibrates itself over the course of time to smooth out these wrinkles, but Towson -- on its own accord -- has refused to allow this to happen.

These accomplishments are often lost in the haze of "WHY AIN'T WE BEATIN' HOPKINS BY 40 YET AND WINNIN' SIX NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS EVERY SEASON?!" cries from fans, but it's proof that Towson's heart has surpassed its physical product in recent seasons. If Nadelen can harness this and turn it into a solid foundation for the future, the Tigers' volition could exceed their current capacity.

"YOU'RE GROUNDED UNTIL YOU QUALIFY FOR THE AARP!" FACT

Division I lacrosse hasn't experienced a shutout since the 2012 season when Lehigh and Johns Hopkins both managed to keep Manhattan off the scoreboard for 60 minutes. Towson, however, almost joined the Jaspers in contemporary ignominy in their date against Penn State this past spring: With 54 seconds remaining in regulation, Mike Lynch pounded a ball past Connor Darcey to give the Tigers their lone tally against the Nittany Lions, a bucket that did little to mitigate a horrendous 8-1 loss. Towson wasn't expected to beat Penn State at Johnny Unitas Stadium, but the 59:06 scoreless stretch for the Tigers was an effort in absolute offensive futility that stands as both impressive and mind-explosion worthy. The Lions straight up assaulted Towson on the Tigers' home field, and Towson was powerless to stop the bleeding:

  • The Tigers shot 4.35 percent (1-23) against Penn State. Four. Point. Three-Five. Percent. The team's raw shots on goal shooting rate was 8.33 percent (1-12) and Penn State's team save percentage against the Tigers was 91.67 percent (while also making saves on around half of Towson's offensive opportunities). Austin Kaut is good, but he's not erase-the-entirety-of-the-Tigers'-offense-from-existence good.
  • Towson scored on around 4.54 percent of their offensive opportunities. At that scoring rate, the Tigers would have needed approximately 175 offensive opportunities against the Nittany Lions to score eight goals and knot the scoreboard. Based on the pace at which Towson played in 2014, that's about six games worth of offensive opportunities. In other words, the Tigers' offensive performance against Penn State was so bad that it would have taken a universal impossibility for Towson to tie the Nittany Lions, never mind win (the Tigers would have needed about 200 offensive opportunities to score nine goals and actually beat Penn State based on the rate that Towson was scoring against the Lions).
  • Towson turned the ball over on just over half of their offensive opportunities against Penn State, two-thirds of those giveaways being of the unforced variety. This is essentially pouring gasoline on a nuclear fire.

The Tigers' performance was just short of a total disaster, but it remains one of the ugliest performances from a known quantity in Division I this past season. The worst part of all of this, though, was that the loss started a four-game slide for Towson that closed the team's 2014 campaign. That's . . . that's doubleplusungood.

THE DISTANT FUTURE

Towson returns almost 69 percent of its starts from 2014, losing two key offensive assets (Max Siskind and Tom DeNapoli) and a stalwart defensive presence (John Fennessy). Depth in the midfield should exist in 2015 with Greg Cuccinello, Justin Mabus, Ben McCarty, and Ryan Drenner, and Andrew Hodgson -- if he's able to return -- could slide into the attack to complement Joe Seider in-close. The defense also returns a host of contributors from last spring -- JoJo Ostrander, Nick Gorman, Tyler White, Mike Lowe, etc. -- that have the capability to provide a smooth transition to the coming year while also finding opportunity for growth and development. There is a definite sense that if the Tigers can clean up their issues from a season ago that 2015 could see the program stand bruised and bloodied atop THUNDERDOME!'s cage of fury as the league's champion. There are solid teams to overcome -- Drexel has momentum; Hofstra is always an animal; Fairfield enters the league with expectations; and dealing with Massachusetts is always a pain in the ass -- but Towson is -- at least at this point -- equipped to potentially charge toward a conference crown.