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Big Tests Ahead For Towson, Johns Hopkins Men's Lacrosse

March 21, 2019
Towson head men's lacrosse coach Shawn Nadelen has never shied away from playing some of the top teams in the country.

So far this year, the No. 8 Tigers (5-2) have played five teams ranked in the top 20 and put together a 12-10 victory against then-No. 1 Loyola Feb. 27. 

The challenge continues against No. 13 Denver, which has not played since a 10-7 loss to No. 11 Notre Dame March 9. The Pioneers (4-2) also have to travel across the country for a noon faceoff at Johnny Unitas Stadium March 23.

Still, the Tigers will face another tough test. 

Denver has a talented midfield that has scored 32 of the team's 70 goals this season. That unit is led by Jack Hannah (five goals, nine assists), Colton Jackson (eight goals, four assists) and Alex Simmons (seven goals, two assists). 

However, the Pioneers have not been that explosive overall on offense and rank 31st among D-I teams with 11.7 goals per game.

As a result, the Tigers will look to get off to a quick start and make Denver play from behind. Towson should be able to dominate possession behind faceoff specialist Alex Woodall. The senior from St. Mary's in Annapolis, Md., has won 136 of 179 draw this season, second behind Yale's TD Ierlan. 

Towson's attack is led by senior Brendan Sunday, who is ranked 10th nationally with 3.3 goals per game. The Tigers are tied with UMass, Syracuse and Penn with 15 goals per game and have scored in double-digit goals every game this season.

The Tigers, however, are looking to snap a two-game skid. Towson lost to then-No. 2 Cornell, 18-11, March 10 and then fell, 12-10, to then No. 2 Duke one week later. 

Towson was 8 of 14 on clear against the Blue Devils. 

"We had trouble clearing the ball most of the game," Sunday said after the game. "I know that I threw one that was pretty crucial. It was just mental mistakes that we shouldn't be making at this point in the season, and I know we're going to correct it going forward."

Denver has one of the stingiest defenses in the nation and allows just eight goals per game, third nationally behind Army and Air Force. 

This is Towson's final nonconference game of the regular season. The Tigers open CAA play against Hofstra March 30.

Prediction: Towson 12, Denver 10

Johns Hopkins and Virginia Battle for Doyle Smith Cup

After a sluggish start, Johns Hopkins is getting better defensively. 

Still, the No. 16 Blue Jays (4-3) are ranked 49th in Division I lacrosse, allowing 12 goals per game.

On March 23, Johns Hopkins will host No. 9 Virginia, which is finally getting into a groove offensively. The Cavaliers (5-2) have won four consecutive games, including three in overtime. Virginia has averaged 13.5 goals during that winning streak.

Attackman Michael Kraus (16 goals, 14 assists) and midfielder Matt Moore (14 goals, 16 assists) lead the Cavaliers with 30 points apiece. Attackman Ian Laviano has a team-high 22 goals. 

Johns Hopkins coach Dave Pietramala would rather not get into a shootout, but his team is fully capable of keeping pace. The Blue Jays are averaging 11 goals per game, led by freshman Joey Epstein (15 goals, eight assists) and senior Kyle Marr (15 goals, six assists). 

Junior Cole Williams (Loyola Blakefield) leads Johns Hopkins with nine assists and is third on the team with 17 points. 

The game is the 14th annual battle for the Doyle Smith Cup, named after E. Doyle Smith Jr. for his lifetime of contributions to the lacrosse programs at both schools. Johns Hopkins leads the all-time series 61-31-1. However, Virginia has won nine of the last 16 meetings. 

The teams have met at least once every season since 1948. 

Prediction: Virginia 13, Johns Hopkins 12 OT

Photo Credits: Courtesy of Towson Athletics and Johns Hopkins Athletics