By: Sam Peterson, Senior Staff writer
After appearing in the Colonial Athletic Association Tournament for the first time in her career, Towson Women’s Soccer goalkeeper Riley Melendez has one goal in mind for her fourth year: to win a CAA championship and advance to the NCAA tournament.
Melendez has been defending the Towson net since her first season in the spring of 2021 and has earned all-conference honors every season.
“All the coaching staff, they really care about me as a player,” Melendez said. “When I feel that, I feel that I’m in a better place to succeed. When you know your coaches care about you on and off the field, you do your best.”
Melendez finished as the top goalie in the conference for the 2022 season, earning CAA Goalkeeper of the Year. She was placed on the All-CAA First Team. Melendez is the first player in program history to win an individual honor. She said it’s always nice winning awards and getting recognition, but could not have done it without her backline.
“It was the first major award we’ve ever gotten while being in the CAA,” Head Coach Katherine Vettori said. “It was a season of a lot of firsts, but we want to keep going.”
Over the years of coaching Melendez, Vettori has seen a lot of growth both on the field and in the classroom. She has seen growth in her communication and confidence as a player and feels like a proud parent watching her grow up.
Vettori continues to push Melendez to be her best, with the hope to help her achieve her goal of playing professionally in the future. She told Melendez never to get comfortable and keep pushing as she continues to compete with other goalkeepers for the starting position.
During her three-year tenure as goalkeeper, Melendez has never missed a start and takes advantage of the resources around her to stay in the net. She prioritizes staying in shape and working on her mobility in the offseason while balancing her role as a student.
The junior goalkeeper allowed just 11 goals the entire 2022 season, with only five coming from in conference play. Melendez and the Tiger defense recorded 11 shutouts during the season, five being against CAA opponents. As a leader on defense, Melendez focuses on building relationships off the field to ensure that communication on the field is smooth.
Melendez finished with 61 saves and had a season-high six saves against Howard University, College of Charleston and Drexel University.
“She’s just so clean and cool on the ball,” Vettori said. “Her distribution with her feet as a goalkeeper is fantastic, and the saves that she makes. Technically she’s just very sound.”
The Tigers, coming off a historic year, finished with an overall 12-3-5 record and 4-1-4 in the conference. The Tigers made their second CAA Tournament appearance in program history, coming in at the fifth seed.
Towson went on to win their first CAA Tournament game against Elon University but fell in the semifinals to the eventual tournament champion Hofstra University.
“I think it was a great team effort last season,” Melendez said. “We really came together as a team, and we just played our game and developed as players.”
The Tigers have multiple players returning on both sides of the ball for the 2023 season as they look to return to the CAA tournament and achieve their goal of winning a CAA championship.
“Everything we do now is in preparation for Aug. 1,” Vettori said.