By MILTON KENT
If we’ve learned nothing else from this season of Towson women’s lacrosse, it’s that Tiger games are not for the faint-of-heart.
So, if you’re planning to come to Friday’s Colonial Athletic Association Tournament semifinal, here are a couple of things to remember:
First, plan to stay for the ENTIRE game, since they typically don’t get decided until very late in the contest.
And come with a full supply of cuticles, since you’ll be biting your fingernails from beginning to end.
In compiling a 13-3 record, the Tigers have played nine games decided by two goals or fewer.
The fact that they won eight of those nine makes Coach Sonia LaMonica (below) feel better than the alternative, but she wouldn’t mind a few wide open games either, especially after playing four overtime games last year.
“I almost feel like I’m getting used to it, used to the pressure games and the tense moments,” said LaMonica. “We’ve had our fair share of them. Every game brings something different and it’s exciting nonetheless.”
Take Sunday, for instance. On a rainy, chilly Senior Day, the Tigers led 8-5 into the final 12 minutes of the contest, only to see James Madison score three times to tie and force overtime, then take a 9-8 lead midway through the extra session.
However, Towson’s Kelly Custer, a junior midfielder, scored from eight meters out with 50 seconds left in overtime to force a second extra frame.
In the second overtime, Sarah Hogan, also a junior midfielder, notched the game winner with 26 seconds left in the sudden death period to give the Tigers a 10-9 win and their second straight CAA regular season title.
LaMonica said the players brought their own sense of determination and calm to the overtime, their first of the season.
“The players themselves in the huddle (were like) ‘We’ve been here before, We’ve got this,” said LaMonica.
“As a coach, it’s a great feeling to have a group that has (shown) that kind of resilience. That will continue to serve us well as we move forward.”
The absence of panic in the Tiger roster – dotted with 15 underclassmen – begins, LaMonica said, with the belief in their defense, which has surrendered nine or fewer goals in a game 13 times, all but one of those wins.
At that heart of that defense is senior goalie Mary Teeters, whom LaMonica said is “probably having the best year of her career in terms of consistency.”
“She’s always been a great leader and covers us with great plays, particularly in those pressure times when you need the big save,” said LaMonica. “That’s where she comes through, in most cases.”
Teeters is aided by a defensive scheme that forces opposing attackers to take shots from bad angles, which, in theory, makes save chances easier.
LaMonica singled out junior Alexa Demski as one of the Tigers’ best on-the-ball defenders, saying, “She usually does a tremendous job of limiting and shutting them down.”
Sophomore attackers Andi Raymond (below) and Ashleigh Rohrback have led an offense that has slowly emerged as a force. The Tigers have scored at least 10 goals in each of the last four games, all wins and all part of an overall seven game win skein.
The continued offensive improvement has LaMonica believing that Towson can not only capture the CAA crown this weekend at home at the Tiger Soccer Complex, but do some damage in the upcoming NCAA tournament.
“We certainly have some missions in place and we expect to meet them,” said LaMonica, who scored 111 goals in her All-America playing career at the University of Maryland. “I’m very excited, very hopeful. From here on out, it’s ultimately up to the girls and how badly they want it.”
LaMonica, in her second season at Towson and her third year overall as a head coach, is youthful. But few things can age a coach more rapidly than a team that repeatedly plays games with heart-stopping finishes.
So, if for nothing more than the overall health and well-being of their coach, the Tigers should consider putting a little more distance between themselves and their opponents, not to mention to save the fingernails of their fans.
“That (close finishes are) part of the game,” said Lamonica, with a laugh. “If you blew everybody out of the water, it wouldn’t be much fun.
Then, taking a thoughtful pause, LaMonica said, “But maybe it would.”