When the calendar turns to May, it’s every men’s lacrosse collegiate program’s favorite time of the year. The regular season has concluded, and now the conference tournaments get underway. The CAA is one of the most underrated conferences in NCAA Division I Men’s Lacrosse, but the action in the semi-finals of the tournament had the feel of a major conference tournament.
The regular season concluded with Fairfield and Towson claiming a share of the regular season conference championship with a CAA-record of 4-1. However, due to the fact that the Tigers defeated the Stags earlier in the season, Towson was awarded the first seed and home-field advantage.
With the first seed, the Tigers had to face against the fourth-seeded Delaware Fightin’ Blue Hens. The only loss the Tigers obtained during the conference portion of the schedule was against the Fightin’ Blue Hens, so they were determined not to make the same mistakes they did earlier.
The offensive game plan was simple for Towson: spread the ball around. They accomplished that with six different players scoring once in the first half. As for the defense, their order of the day was to limit the Fightin’ Blue Hens offense. That was also accomplished in the first half with Delaware scoring two goals, giving Towson the 6-2 lead going into halftime.
The second half, however, was a bit closer than probably the Tigers would’ve liked. The Delaware offense came out of halftime firing on all cylinders, scoring three goals within five minutes and getting the score as close as 7-5. But a late goal in the third quarter for Towson gave momentum back to them, and they dominated the fourth quarter to punch their ticket to the CAA Finals by a final score of 10-6. Now the Tigers had to wait for the result of the Hofstra/Fairfield match to see who they would face in the CAA Championship.
A little rivalry has been building up between Hofstra and Fairfield over the last couple of seasons. Last season, it was the Stags that defeated the Pride in the last game of the regular season and crushed any hope Hofstra had of getting into the CAA tournament. During the 2016 regular season, it was the Stags who handed the Pride their first conference loss of the season at James M. Shuart Stadium. Now, Fairfield continued to crush Hofstra’s hopes as they eliminated them from the CAA tournament by a score 11-8.
The Pride were playing catch-up for most of the game. They found themselves down early in the first quarter 3-1. In the second quarter, Hofstra was able to cut the lead down to one before halftime, making the score 5-4 in favor of Fairfield. T.J. Neubauer led the way for the Stags with two goals and Korey Hendrickson was the leading scorer for Hofstra also with two goals.
Even though the Pride was able to tie the game at five at the beginning of the third quarter, a new thorn became a pain in the Pride’s side, and that thorn’s name was Colin Burke. Burke scored the first goal of the game in the first half, and he picked up where he left off in the third, scoring three consecutive goals. He added his fifth and final goal of the game in the fourth quarter.
To respond to Burke’s three goals, Hofstra scored three consecutive goals of their own at the end of the third quarter, going into the fourth. Sam Llinares, Luke Gomez, and Brendan Kavanagh were credited with the goals. Unfortunately, Neubauer reappeared in the fourth quarter to tally his third goal of the game, and Burke and Jake Knotsman iced the game with a goal each.
Now the CAA Championship stage is set for the Towson Tigers versus the Fairfield Stags. The heavy favorite has to be the Tigers. They’re ranked, they have home-field advantage, and they’re trying to repeat as CAA champions. However, don’t count out the Fairfield Stags. They’ve been a dark horse in the CAA, the quiet team that made a little noise but wasn’t expected to do much. The Stags have proven they’re not a team to sleep on, having defeated the Tigers earlier in the season. These two teams may have been co-regular season champions, but by the end of Saturday, only one will have the claim as CAA Champions.