April 25, 2014 by Billy Bauer
This postseason, the Dragons are coming home.
The Drexel University men’s lacrosse team dominated Colonial Athletic Association rival Towson University April 19 en route to a 13-7 victory to lock up the No. 2 seed in the upcoming CAA tournament.
Drexel started the game out strong, controlling possession for the first five minutes, but was unable to get on the board and a quick goal by Towson’s Justin Mabus gave the Tigers a one-goal lead with 12 minutes remaining in the period.
From that point on, the game was completely one-sided. The Dragons scored three quick goals, two by freshman attacker Cole Shafer, and took a two-goal lead with eight minutes remaining in the first period. A goal by Towson was quickly followed by another Shafer marker, giving him a hat trick in just one period of play.
The second period was fairly uneventful, yielding only three goals.
The Dragons went into the half leading 5-4 and truly began to breathe fire.
They came out of the locker room raring to go and crushed the Tigers in every facet of the game. In the first 10 minutes of the second half, the Dragons outscored the Tigers 4-0 with yet another goal by Shafer, bringing his tally to four goals for the game. Before the end of the third period Shafer would net yet another, his 25th of the season, joining senior attacker Nick Trizano and senior midfielder Ben McIntosh as the third Dragon this season to reach that mark.
The Dragons entered the final quarter leading 10-5 and proceeded to outscore Towson 3-2 in the final period to cement a victory that clinched the No. 2 seed in the CAA tournament.
The performance of freshman Cole Shafer was undeniably a deciding factor of this game. During the Dragons’recent winning streak, Shafer had only managed to net two goals in four games, far off the pace set by the 18 he scored in the first eight games of the season.
“Cole is a big piece and played very well in the Towson game, but the important part is just getting everyone playing in the flow of the offense and working hard,”head coach Brian Voelker said.
Shafer’s offensive abilities were invaluable for the team in the beginning of the season when the offense wasn’t fully cohesive. Now that the team has finally managed to bring all the pieces together, bringing Shafer into that will be an incredible asset. With Shafer on board, the Dragons have serious offensive depth— six players with double-digit points this year—which bodes well for the postseason.
That offensive depth will be especially important in the postseason if the Dragons end up facing off against Hofstra University, the No. 1 seed in the tournament, in the final game. Hofstra is the only CAA team to have defeated the Dragons this year, and they did it with a mostly defensive effort. With the Dragons’offense playing at this level, that performance likely will not be repeated.
Trizano has also come into his own as the year has progressed. During the five-game winning streak, Trizano scored 14 goals, including four games of three or more goals. He’s demanding the ball on offense and converting on most of his attempts.
Players like Trizano and McIntosh not only score goals but also foster offense through their extraordinary passing abilities and the way the defense knows they have to account for their offensive output on every possession. The opposing teams’defenses pressure them too hard, leading to holes that allow other players, like Shafer, to capitalize.
Sophomore goaltender Will Gabrielsen has officially cemented himself as a goal-stopping force. He ranks 19th among qualifying goalies in saves per game, a ranking that tops all other goalies in the CAA.
The Dragons have historically always been a great offensive team, but their defensive and goalie flaws have let them down, ultimately causing their downfall. This season, the defense and goalie play have been consistently above average and have allowed them to win games and hold the game together when the offense goes through streaks of stagnancy. This bodes extremely well for Drexel’s chances to win the CAA Championship and finally make it to the NCAA Tournament.
Halfway through this season, it seemed unlikely that the Dragons would be in this position. Coming off a home loss to Hofstra a little over a month ago, they sat at 4-4 with a 0-1 in conference record, a mark that left them middling in the CAA.
The Dragons are now 4-1 in conference and are poised to do some serious damage during the postseason. They have clinched the second spot in the conference, which means the team will return to Vidas FieldApril 30, hoping to punch its ticket to the CAA finals.
With the second spot locked up, the team could take next week as an opportunity to rest the players, but Voelker doesn’t believe in that philosophy and keeps the season in perspective.
“We plan to go into the game like it’s a regular game,”he said. “We’re going to play like we need it. It’s not only about the CAA; we have a long shot at an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, and that’s only possible with a win Friday night.
“We want to keep our run going and ride momentum into the playoffs, and a win will keep us rolling.”
The Dragons play next at High Point University April 25.