The 16 teams that qualified for the NCAA tournament are fully aware of the one-and-done nature of the postseason. One bad game – heck, one bad quarter – may be enough to send a contender home to begin the offseason.
The single-elimination format of the NCAA tournament will have a familiar feel for Towson (10-7), which had to upset Drexel and Penn State in the Colonial Athletic Association tournament last week to capture the championship and the automatic qualifier to the NCAA tournament. One loss to either the Dragons or the Nittany Lions and the Tigers – who will meet third-seeded Ohio State this Sunday in the first round of the NCAA tournament – knew their 2013 campaign was over.
“Playing in the CAA last year and getting knocked out in the first round [by Massachusetts], we understood the consequences of losing a game this year in the CAA tournament,” junior attackman Thomas DeNapoli said Wednesday. “We were real prepared going into last week and facing two teams that gave us our only two CAA losses. We were looking for some revenge and the opportunity to get to the NCAA tournament, and we achieved that.”
Towson would have preferred avoiding the nail-biting as the team fought for its postseason life in the conference tournament, but coach Shawn Nadelen said he saw a level of intensity in the players that was at times lacking in the earlier portion of the schedule.
“I think our guys have had that focus, that each game matters, that each game is the biggest game we’ve had,” Nadelen said. “If we don’t win, then we don’t move on. Our guys have paid close attention to that, and you have to go out there and play strong lacrosse because every team is good. With the CAA tournament and the way that unfolded, our guys were really focused, and I wouldn’t expect that to be any different going forward. I think it’s a good time of the year to have that mentality.”
Despite their success last week, the Tigers are not getting much love from analysts and pundits as they seek their first appearance in the NCAA quarterfinals since 2003. The Buckeyes are regarded as a heavy favorite, but DeNapoli said the players have tuned out that line of thinking.
“We try not to listen to the media,” he said. “People counted us out after our first game against High Point. The only thing that matters to us is the 42 guys or so in the locker room. We always believe in each other and we know what we’re capable of. Now we have a chance to show it and hopefully, we can show it on Sunday, that we are a team of being worthy of this tournament.”