Two of the area's most prominent women's lacrosse programs took the field Wednesday, each searching for a way to end an unfamiliar losing streak.
On a stormy night at Loyola Maryland, the No. 17 Greyhounds used an impressive defensive effort, holding No. 18 Towson to one goal in the final 38 minutes, 53 seconds and two shots in the second half in a 7-6 come-from-behind win.
Trailing 5-3 late in the first half, Loyola (3-4) scored four of the last five goals, including Sydney Thomas' game-winner on a move from behind the net with 15:44 left, to snap its four-game losing streak.
"We know what we can do. We just haven't been putting it out there and showing the rest of the lacrosse world," Greyhounds coach Jen Adams said. "It was nice to finally put it back out on the field."
The difference-maker was a key defensive adjustment, following a first-half in which Tigers senior Ashleigh Rohrback (Westminster) tied a career high with five assists — largely by standing in back of the goal and feeding wide-open cutters.
"We were playing man on man on their cutters, and we decided to switch it up and play bookends, so we were coming off each end and taking cutters as they came," Loyola midfielder Taryn VanThof said. "And it worked. It turned it around in the second half."
Loyola forced 10 turnovers after halftime. Just as importantly, they face-guarded Tigers leading scorer Andi Raymond, holding her without a goal or assist on three shots for the night.
Rohrback finished with a goal and five assists to lead Towson (2-4), which dropped its fourth straight game — all against ranked teams.
"They knew a lot was on the line, and their defensive effort really amped up," Towson coach Sonia LaMonica said. "We got a little tight, and some of our shots didn't fall."
Annie Thomas (John Carroll) had two goals and an assist and Molly Hulseman added a goal and two assists for Loyola, which also got a goal, an assist, four draw controls and three forced turnovers from VanThof, who was instrumental on the winning goal, as well.
Following a turnover at the other end, Loyola brought the ball to the other end. With the ball on the right side, VanThof swung a pass diagonally behind the goal to Thomas, who made a quick move to her right and scored from close range.
The win was an emotional boost for Loyola, which in the past two weeks suffered one-goal losses to Johns Hopkins, James Madison and Florida.
"It's big, and it's momentum building," VanThof said.
"We've been on the receiving end of a few of those one-goal losses," Adams said. "It's very different on this side of things."
Towson started quickly in this one, scoring off each of the first two draw controls to take a 2-0 lead 4:04 into the game.
Loyola quickly answered with three straight goals, and had several chances to extend its lead further. Despite 12 shots in the first 8 minutes, however, the Greyhounds time and again failed to extend their lead, either getting off poor shots or having them saved by Towson junior Kelsea Donnelly (South River).
After Donnelly saved a point-blank shot by Loyola's Syndey Thomas off a fastbreak, the Tigers minutes later tied the game when Rohrback, from behind the net, found freshman Gabby Cha (Mount de Sales) cutting in front.
It was the first of three goals by Towson in a span of 2:21, all off assists from Rohrback, to put the Tigers ahead 5-3.
After halftime, however, it was a different game.
The Greyhounds pulled even on goals by Kara Burke (Dulaney) and Hulseman to start the half, then took a 6-5 lead on Annie Thomas' unassisted effort for Loyola's third goal in 1:17.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun