Towson coach Sonia LaMonica knew advancing to the NCAA tournament likely hinged on beating James Madison in Saturday's Colonial Athletic Association championship game.
The Tigers, who entered the day 11-6,and had their biggest victory on April 15 against James Madison — it was the last time the Dukes lost a game.
Towson, however, played from behind most of Saturday's game and simply could not overcome the Dukes in an 8-6 loss at Johnny Unitas Stadium.
Towson lost in the CAA championship game for the first time after winning titles in 2005, 2008 and 2009. The Tigers' resume for the NCAA tournament lost some of its luster with losses to the other ranked opponents they faced this season in Loyola, Syracuse and Maryland
"I didn't talk about that, about the tournament," Towson coach LaMonica said."I wanted to keep the focus on what was right in front of us. I think there was enough motivation within that. I don't like to go too far ahead."
Jackie LaMonica (Hereford) led Towson with two goals and goalie Mary Teeters (Centennial) stopped several shots from point-blank range, finishing with 10 saves. Mary Kate Lomady and Ariel Lane led James Madison with two goals each.
Lomady was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Performer. Towson's Alexa Demski (Loch Raven), Jess Dunn (Fallston) and Kelly Custer were named to the All-Championship Team.
James Madison (15-3) was successful on 15 of16 clear attempts and won the ground ball battle 14-8.
A goal by Lane with five seconds remaining in the first half gave James Madison a 6-3 lead at the break. Towson adjusted by increasing their intensity and doing a better job in transition.
Towson took control and tied the game with three consecutive goals to open the second half. Custer and freshman Kelly Murkey (Westminster) each scored on free position chances and Jackie LaMonica tied the game with 17:47 left in the game.
"We could definitely feel the energy picking up," Jackie LaMonica said. "We were really pumped and ready to go. They just capitalized on the mistakes that we made. We made it hard on ourselves. I think we just got too excited."
Caitlin McHugh (Mercy) and Annie Brophy responded for James Madison with goals 1:08 apart, and the Dukes regained the lead 8-6 with 13:55 left. James Madison then clamped down on defense and didn't allow the Tigers many open looks at the goal. The Dukes also stayed patient on offense to maintain possession.
After Jackie LaMonica scored the game's first goal on a free position with 22:49 left in the first half, the Tigers never led again. James Madison took the lead with two goals by Lomady and another by Ariel Lane in four minutes and stayed in control most of the way.
"It's been great and it's sad to go," said Dunn, a senior who might have played her last game at Towson. "But I'm going to keep coming back and cheering them on."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun