By: Matt Hamilton, Senior Writer
It was an up-and-down season for Towson, and the Colonial Athletic Association tournament did not stray from the script. Coming in as the No. 4 seed, Towson upset No.1 Hofstra by scoring four goals in overtime to set up a meeting with No.2 seed James Madison in the championship game on Sunday.
After the Tigers jumped out to an early lead, the Dukes took control of the game and led throughout the second half to run away with the CAA championship and end the Tigers’ season with a 13-6 win in Newark, Delaware.
“I thought our girls played really hard and kept fighting,” Head Coach Sonia LaMonica said. “We had good looks to the cage and we didn’t finish. That allowed James Madison to get momentum.”
The loss ends a run of three consecutive CAA championships and NCAA tournament appearances. LaMonica said that although this team was younger than in previous years, she still believes it could win again.
“I think coaches set high standards, so our expectations are high regardless of the players we’re working with,” she said. “We still had lofty goals this season, so coming up short on those goals is a little disappointing. But this was no doubt a bit of a rebuilding year for us.”
Towson drew first blood with a goal from freshman midfielder Michelle Gildea, who scored off an assist from senior attacker Andi Raymond just over 90 seconds into the game. Raymond finished her career with 120 goals and 89 assists in four full seasons.
LaMonica said the senior class had a great influence on the youth of this 2015 roster.
“We’re knocking on the door with a very inexperienced group this season, but we had great seniors,” she said. “A great senior class that helped our younger players. They really allowed us to have exceptional team chemistry this year. They were such a great group to coach this season.”
The Dukes answered back less than three minutes later when midfielder Leah Monticello found Alison Curwin, who beat Tigers goalie Kelsea Donnelly to tie the game.
Towson continued to put pressure on the James Madison defense, putting four shots on goal in the next five minutes. The fourth shot from freshman midfielder Emily Gillingham got past James Madison goalie Schyler Healy to give Towson the 2-1 lead.
Raymond followed up with her first goal of the game with just over 19 minutes remaining in the half. She rushed past the Dukes defense before firing past Healy to move the lead to two goals.
After a goal from midfielder Brooks Lawler that cut the lead to one, the Tigers made it 4-2 with 15:31 left in the game. Freshman Kaitlyn Montalbano scored from up front after a pass from Raymond.
Despite the lead, Towson lost its momentum quickly and James Madison put together a 6-0 run to end the half with a big lead.
Midfielder Jaci Gordon got the run started with a goal off a draw control from Curwin. Attacker Stephanie Finley tied the game after a flurry of shots with less than 10 minutes remaining in the half.
Curwin gave James Madison its first lead with her 32nd second goal of the season. It came after Towson blocked a previous free position shot.
Less than two minutes later, attacker Betsy Angel made it four straight goals, beating Donnelly for her 46th goal of the year.
Down two goals, Towson caused a turnover in the last minute of the half that resulted in a shot from up close, but Healy made a strong stop to keep it 6-4. Instead, Gordon made it downfield and scored in front of Donnelly to make it a two-goal swing.
To make matters worse, the Dukes won the ensuing draw control and Monticello made it 8-4 with four seconds left in the half.
“[James Madison] is a highly talented team, especially this season,” LaMonica said. “They have a lot of scoring talent on the offensive front. If you’re not competing on the draws and not taking advantage of your possessions, they are going to hurt you.”
Towson led, 7-6, in draw controls at half, but James Madison held the 12-10 advantage in shots on goal.
Raymond opened the second half with her second goal to cut the deficit to 8-5. She got in front of Healy on the right side of goal and got past her to score on an empty net.
Over 15 minutes passed before either team scored, and it came when Finley scored off a pass from Lawler on a free position shot. Gildea scored her second goal less than two minutes later to cut the deficit to 9-6 with 11:15 remaining.
Another seven-minute period went by without a goal and Towson’s chances dwindled as a result. James Madison ended the game on a 4-0 run to clinch the 13-6 win.
Friday, Hofstra held Towson scoreless for the first 44 minutes, but could only manage two goals itself. Freshman attacker Jenna Kerr scored two goals in a minute to tie the game with 14 minutes remaining.
The Tigers headed to overtime with the score at 3-3. In the period, senior midfielder Paige Duncan scored with her team down two players because of penalties.
Raymond made it 5-3 with her third goal, still while Towson was not at even strength. Towson added two empty-net goal to seal the upset win.