TOWSON, Md. --- Towson freshman Matt Hughes wasn't necessarily expecting to see a short stick in tonight's CAA semifinals against Massachusetts.
He certainly didn't complain after helping to extend the Tigers' season by at least another day.
Hughes feasted on the friendly matchup, scoring three goals as Towson ripped Massachusetts 13-6 to advance to Saturday afternoon's conference title game against Delaware.
Hughes scored twice as the Tigers (7-7) erased an early two-goal deficit, then added another score in a 7-0 spurt as Towson picked apart a surprisingly feeble defense from Massachusetts (8-6).
"I don't know what they were thinking," Hughes said. "You'd think they'd learn once or twice, and then they kept doing it. That's fine with me. I'm fine with a short stick on me. I'd rather have a short stick than a pole."
The initial decision didn't seem so bad. Towson has a pair of potent midfielders in Will Harrington and Christian Pastirik. Hughes had nine goals on the season, and just two in the last five games.
But it backfired quickly as the Tigers adjusted to goalie Tim McCormack, who made six of his 12 saves in the first quarter. After playing catch with the sophomore early on, Towson figured things out and were barely challenged in the final 50 minutes.
"Went to the goal and started shooting low," Hughes said. "He was getting everything up top, so you learn after a while to starting shooting low. We started shooting low, and we started scoring goals."
Hughes wasn't the lone reason for Towson's largest margin of defeat since a 10-2 pummeling of Drexel in last year's CAA semifinals. Goalie Travis Love made 11 saves, and Harrington and Pastirik combined for five goals.
Just as significantly, Massachusetts committed 20 turnovers and was a meager 13-for-20 on its clears.
Hughes, though, did enough to instigate several Minutemen breakdowns.
"We shorted their guy 38 there, and he did a good job there," Massachusetts coach Greg Cannella said. "He handled it well and the team handled it well. They got under us a bunch of times. They're really good that way. They're crafty that way."
Hughes' breakout game reflected the Towson offense, which produced its biggest output since a 16-goal outburst against Sacred Heart on April 4, 2009. If it keeps up for one more game, the Tigers could be off to their first NCAA tournament in three years.
"It paid big dividends for us," Towson coach Tony Seaman said. "The freshman came through for us tonight. He was great with the ball and without the ball. He kept his eyes open for people. They did a lot of that and so we took their shorties from behind. We thought it was a good way for us to play tonight."