ANNAPOLIS --- Five thoughts on Towson's 8-7 victory over Navy, its first win against the Midshipmen in six all-time trips to Annapolis ...
1. Scoring droughts continue to plague Navy.
Given how this started --- with the Midshipmen bolting to leads of 3-0 and 4-1 --- it was hard to envision Towson making a serious push.
Then the Midshipmen's scoring slowed. Then it disappeared altogether over the final 22:17.
"I think their defense was pretty good," Navy coach Rick Sowell said. "Their goalie made 14 saves. As an offensive player back in the day, I'm always going to say we have to shoot --- I don't like to give goalies too much credit. I'm sure there's some opportunities we have to finish better. We have to finish those plays off."
This isn't the first offensive disappearing act this season. The Mids were blanked for 16:05 at Fairfield, for 14:16 at Georgetown and the final 51:08 at Bucknell.
Not coincidentally, Navy (3-4) lost each of those games, just like this one to Towson.
"There's some things we need to work on --- shooting, decision-making, which I think a couple times tonight bit us in the butt," Sowell said. "It's just one of those things we can't quite put our finger on it. We need to figure it out and be consistent."
2. Towson earns credit for not folding after an awful start.
This hasn't been a fun winter for the Tigers (3-4), who have a loss to a first-year program (High Point) and a Metro Atlantic program (Marist) and almost lost to another independent from the south (Mercer).
So when Towson had eight turnovers in a pitifully sloppy first quarter, coach Shawn Nadelen could have been forgiven for thinking "Uh oh."
"A little bit," Nadelen said. "I was more frustrated at the offense just because we had some quick possessions and careless turnovers. We were digging in and playing defense decently. ... I didn't feel like it was going to go in a negative way. The energy was still good on the sidelines and the huddle. Our guys knew what we had to do."
Towson and Navy traded goals, and the Tigers then scored three times in a 93-second span to tie it late in the second quarter.
While Navy has a couple overtime losses, Towson's fortune in close games isn't much better. And with a trip to Duke looming on Saturday, it was easy to see how the Tigers could have been 2-6 without a turnaround Tuesday.
"Everybody's got a chip on their shoulder about how it's gone so far," goalie Andrew Wascavage said.
Maybe that would have changed with a loss. For now, though, Towson harbors a little bit of hope with its conference schedule still ahead of it.
"I wasn't quite sure what to expect in this game," Nadelen said. "As I told the guys, 'Watch out, because now I know. I know what to expect.' ... We really need to stay at this level as we finish out this season."
3. Wascavage is following up a solid junior season with another fine year.
Wascavage isn't exactly the first guy most people think of when it comes to the sport's top goalies. Some --- OK, a lot --- had to do with Towson's mediocrity in recent years.
But with a 14-save outing against Navy, the senior has a save percentage of .558 this season.
"He's been unbelievable all year," Nadelen said. "He's really been our guy who allows us to be in the position that we were in like tonight with double-digit saves pretty much every game. I feel bad because wins and losses doesn't promote one of the best guys in the country, but if you look at the numbers and how he performs on inside and outside shots, I think he's one of the best guys out there."
4. So much for an extended mid-March run to give Navy traction.
The Mids pulled out a 12-11 victory over Lafayette on Saturday. In the not-too-distant past (say, five years ago), a close game with the Leopards would have been cause for concern. In this case, it ended a three-game losing skid and gave Navy something to build on.
Only the Mids built on it for a quarter before stumbling against Towson.
"It just goes to show the top of the world and the bottom of the world just aren't far apart," Sowell said. "As good as you feel after the win on Saturday, you feel that bad because you couldn't get it done Tuesday. I tell you what, that fourth quarter, we didn't score a goal but it's definitely a different feel with our guys. We're trying, we're battling and we're doing a lot of good things. Like I told them, I think we're close."
The last couple years, the Lafayette-Towson-Holy Cross sequence gave Navy something of a mini-run. This year, the best the Mids can do is return to .500 before the schedule stiffens down the stretch.
5. Hard as it is to believe, the midpoint of the season is just about here.
Navy is 3-4 and is guaranteed only six more games. Towson has the same record and is assured of only eight more contests.
So where are these teams going?
It wouldn't be a huge surprise if both continue to struggle. Against better opponents, Towson's faceoff struggles (7 of 19 on Tuesday, a meager 40 percent on the season) are going to prove immensely troublesome. The erratic nature of Navy's offense has the makings of a season-long conundrum.
Navy probably needs a quick turnaround. The string of Maryland, Army and Johns Hopkins to close the regular season in April is particularly imposing, placing an onus on the next three weekends --- Holy Cross (in New York), Colgate (in Baltimore) and at Lehigh to establish a decent position in the Patriot League.
--- Patrick Stevens