By: Matt Hamilton, Sports Editor
After Towson lost, 15-9, to James Madison on Friday night, it made the William & Mary game on Sunday a big one.
The Tigers had to win to clinch a spot in the Colonial Athletic Association tournament, which they have won three consecutive times. Head Coach Sonia LaMonica said despite the 2-3 conference record, she never doubted her team.
“We’ve never lost sight of who we are and what we’re capable of, despite what the scoreboards have shown,” LaMonica said. “Players are even more determined because of those setbacks. They’ve done a great job of moving forward and capitalizing on our next opportunity.”
Towson seized the opportunity on Sunday, going off for a season-high 20 goals in the victory over the Tribe. It’s the most goals Towson has scored in a game since March 20, 2012, when it tallied 23 goals against Richmond.
“After the JMU game, [the transition game] was something we really made a lot of adjustments on,” LaMonica said. “It really empowered [our team] to push offensive opportunities as we’re bringing the ball down the field. That was the difference today and that’s why we’re seeing 20 goals up on the scoreboard.”
William & Mary began with the lead, scoring two early goals on Towson goalie Kelsea Donnelly. Midfielders Shannon Quinn and Amanda Johnson combined to make it 2-0 less than five minutes into the game.
The next eight minutes went back and forth, but neither team could convert. However, LaMonica said Donnelly began to step up and give her team a much-needed spark. It started with an interception by Donnelly, who stepped in front of a pass.
“Kelsea Donnelly was our switch,” LaMonica said. “She took it upon herself to step up, just as I asked a few of our leaders to do at the beginning of the game. She caught the fire after she made that great defensive play and she continued to make more of them after that. That, in itself, fired up and motivated others on the field to do the same.”
Aided by Donnelly, TheTigers got out in transition and attacked the Tribe’s defense.
Towson began a run of eight consecutive goals to end the first half starting with freshman midfielder Emily Gillingham’s goal with 17:11 left in the period.
Freshman midfielder Kaitlyn Montalbano responded three minutes later with an unassisted goal to tie the game. Less than three minutes after that, Donnelly saved a William & Mary shot and the Towson defense cleared the ball, leading senior attacker Andi Raymond to find sophomore midfielder Michelle Gildea for the goal.
Sophomore midfielder Samantha Brookhart continued the flurry of goals with two of her own within 11 seconds of each other. Gildea assisted the second of the two goals, which gave the Tigers three goals in one minute and a 5-2 lead with 11 minutes remaining in the half.
LaMonica said Brookhart, who finished with a hat trick, is growing more confident in a bigger role in 2015.
“Sam is newer to this role and it’s a key role and it takes some time to harness that position behind the cage,” she said. “Every game she’s getting better and better. … Today, she was playing fast and aggressive and when she does that, she makes things happen.”
Gildea kept the pressure on the William & Mary defense, tallying her second goal with 8:36 left in the half. Raymond answered with her first goal after a foul on William & Mary.
Sophomore attacker Gabby Cha ended the rally with her first goal, resulting from a foul on the Tribe. In less than 14 minutes, the Tigers turned a two-goal deficit into a six-goal lead.
Towson outshot William & Mary, 16-10, but the home team won the draw control battle, 7-4.
The Tribe opened the second half the same way they started the first. Midfielders Michelle Goss and Abby Corkum scored in the first five minutes to cut the Tigers lead to 8-4.
Towson responded with three of four goals to extend the lead to 11-5 with 17 minutes remaining. Cha, Raymond and Montalbano all contributed to the small run.
After a goal from Quinn, the Tigers took hold of the game for good, scoring six times in less than two minutes to pull away. Senior midfielder Paige Duncan started the action with an unassisted goal.
Freshman midfielder Maddie Tribbe scored her first career goal to push the lead to 13-6 with 13:41 left in the game. Gildea, Cha and Duncan followed along with one goal apiece over the course of 24 seconds to push the lead to 10 goals.
William & Mary cut the lead to nine, but Brookhart and Montalbano both scored their third goal with less than 10 minutes remaining to move the lead to 18-7.
Gillingham and sophomore attacker Michelle Duranti added goals to the Towson lead before the half ended.
Towson will be back home to host Johns Hopkins on Saturday at Johnny Unitas Stadium before traveling to Newark, Delaware for the CAA tournament on May 1. The game Saturday is set to start at 1 p.m.