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Four-seed Syracuse takes on Towson in NCAA Tournament First Round

Joey Spallina (22, White) on offense against Johns Hopkins.
Joey Spallina (22, White) on offense against Johns Hopkins.

Fourth-seeded Syracuse men’s lacrosse (11-5, 3-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) begins play in the NCAA Tournament against Towson (13-3, 7-0 Coastal Athletic Association) on Sunday. The last time the two teams met was back in 2017 when the Tigers eliminated the Orange from the NCAA Tournament with a 10-7 victory in the tournament quarterfinal.

Heading into this matchup, a key aspect to follow is the battle between the two standout attackmen. Syracuse sophomore Joey Spallina and Towson grad student Nick DeMaio are two of the top-five point scorers in the nation this season. In an interview with ACC Network, SU head coach Gary Gait identified Spallina as one of the biggest reasons why the Orange have found success this year.

“He is unbelievable,” Gait remarked. “Unfortunately, what people don’t realize is that he is picking up the best defender in the best conference from every single team, and he’s still making plays.”

Despite the difficult matchups that coach Gait alludes to, Spallina has still notched 76 points this season. That’s the most by a Syracuse player since 2015. The Long Island native enters Sunday’s contest fresh off of a four goal performance against Duke in the ACC Tournament Semifinal.

Joey Spallina (22, Orange) attacks the net against Duke.
Joey Spallina (22, Orange) attacks the net against Duke.

On the opposing side, Towson’s DeMaio has played arguably the biggest role in leading the Tigers to their best record since 2016. During an appearance on Glenn Clark Radio, Towson head coach Shawn Nadelen highlighted DeMaio’s leadership as a key reason for his team’s accomplishments this season.

“Nick has just been a great story of growth and maturity through his time here at Towson,” Nadelen proclaimed. “He’s a great voice, he’s got a strong IQ, he’s a great communicator on the field, and to be more of a field general for us on the offensive end is what we needed.”

Coach Nadelen wanted DeMaio to serve as more of a playmaker rather than just a goal scorer for the Tigers this season. The results have been tremendous. DeMaio has 42 assists on the year. That’s more than he had accumulated over his first four seasons of college lacrosse altogether.

Spallina and DeMaio have both been catalysts for their respective teams this season. Ahead of Sunday’s fight, each squad hopes that their attackman can lift them over the top. The postseason calls for a team’s best players to be at their best. Gary Gait described it best regarding postseason play.

“This is what lacrosse is all about.”

Syracuse and Towson faceoff on Sunday at 7:30 p.m. inside the JMA Wireless Dome. McClurg Remodeling Countdown to Faceoff begins on WAER at 7 p.m.