Gearing up for the homestretch
By Glenn Kaplan, Staff Writer
Photo by Brendan Felch/ The Towerlight
Although its non-conference slate of games did not go to plan, Towson looked to reverse the course in Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) play against No. 10 James Madison at Johnny Unitas Stadium on Sunday afternoon. It wouldn’t bode well for the Tigers (2-9, 0-1 CAA) as the Dukes won 11-7.
The Tigers gave up three quick goals early in the match, making it difficult to get back into the game.
“Overall, our defense had a valiant effort today,” said Head Coach Sonia LaMonica. “[There’s] a few things we can do better, but ultimately our slow start on the offensive end put us behind the 8 ball in the first half.”
The Tigers struggled to get anything going offensively, scoring just once in the first half when freshman attacker Kerri Thornton punched in a goal with 7:06 remaining. James Madison (10-3, 2-0 CAA) took a 5-1 lead going into halftime.
In the second half, Towson found the back of the net six times, including three goals from senior attacker Natalie Sulmonte and two from sophomore attacker Kaitlin Thornton.
“Nat and Kaitlin are great finishers,” LaMonica said. “Against zone defenses, these goals are less about individual play and more about team offense. When we work as a unit to move and pull zone defenses, players like them get better looks to the get which translate to goals.”
However, the defense allowed six goals in the second half as the Tigers failed to tighten down.
“I’m focusing our team on the small victories within,” LaMonica said. “We played a way cleaner game compared to earlier this week, limiting unforced errors. That’s a mental win. If we can bring the offensive game up to speed, particularly in the first half, we will be hard to beat through conference play.”
On Tuesday night at Johnny Unitas Stadium, Towson struggled offensively again in a 10-3 loss against the No.19 Johns Hopkins Blue Jays.
“We gotta build on our bright spots,” said Head Coach Sonia LaMonica. “We gotta simply do a better job of learning from errors, not repeating our mistakes over and over and over again.”
Within the first minute of the game, Towson trailed 1-0, but Sulmonte tied the game a minute later. She now holds a team-high 28 goals on the season.
That would be one of the few bright spots for the Tigers in this game. At various times, Towson was able to get down the field with no problem, but the team had issues when they neared the Blue Jays’ cage.
“We were trying to penetrate too far,” LaMonica said. “We needed to shoot sooner in a lot of instances. We needed to switch fields off of our drives rather than trying to do it all ourselves. Basic principles, things we’ve been doing effectively in practice today for some reason, we just didn’t execute them tonight.”
Johns Hopkins’ defense swarmed the Tigers all game long, and it was very difficult for Towson to get good scoring opportunities. The Blue Jays scored the next four goals to take a 5-1 lead.
With 1:59 remaining in the first half, junior midfielder Shelby Stack scored her 11th goal of the season, giving Towson a slim chance to get back in the game.
All of that hope was erased when Johns Hopkins tallied two more goals before halftime, taking a 7-2 heading into the break.
“We got tight, we got rattled,” LaMonica said. “I thought Hopkins did an outstanding job today of pressuring.”
For most of the second half, there wasn’t much action. Towson didn’t score in the second half until 1:50 remaining, when sophomore midfielder Hannah Hobbes netted her first goal of the year.
“We have to not be so hard on ourselves,” LaMonica said. “I think our players are very hard on themselves. They make mistakes, and we gotta find a way to think critically about errors and learn from them.”
Once again, junior goalkeeper Kiley Keating gave Towson various chances to get back into the game with her solid play in cage, but the Tigers weren’t able to respond positively. Despite the lopsided score, the defense played one of its better games of the season.
“I think the defense and Kiley, they feed off of each other,” LaMonica said. “We had plenty of great defensive plays on the exterior behind the cage.”
With a brutal, non-conference schedule wrapped up, Towson looks to turn this season around in CAA play.
“I think that’s a chance to hit the reset button,” LaMonica said. “Despite this setback, there were bright spots in this game. We’re gonna focus on that, we’re gonna continue to build on our ability to handle pressure and take that into the second phase of our season where we could turn it around.”
Next, Towson will host a pair of conference games this weekend with the Elon Phoenix coming to Johnny Unitas Stadium on Friday, April 12 to face off at 7 p.m., followed by a matchup against William & Mary on Sunday, April 14 starting at noon.