In her second year as coach, former Maryland star Jen Adams believes her Loyola women's lacrosse team now possesses the firepower to compete with any team in the nation.
The seventh-ranked Greyhounds made that abundantly clear on Saturday, dominating host Towson on defense and holding the No. 17 Tigers to their lowest point total in 10 years in a 12-2 win.
"They're starting to understand their potential," Adams said. "I think they believe in it. This is the first year where we've really come out on the field and know how deep we are, what we can do and what brand of lacrosse we can bring to the stage."
Caroline Hager, Grace Gavin, Abby Rehfuss and Marlee Paton each scored two goals for Loyola, which improved to 2-0 first the first time since 2006. Even more impressive than the offense was a defense that held Towson to five shots in the first half and just nine successful clears in 23 attempts for the game.
Junior Ana Heneberry led the effort by shutting down Jess Dunn, Towson's top returning scorer. The Tigers' senior was held without a goal or assist on just three shots. Senior Kellye Gallagher and sophomore Ashley Moulton also played starring roles, as did goalie Kerry Stoothoff, who racked up 10 saves, including several from point-blank range.
"They just force our opposition to make mistakes — drop the ball, force them out of bounds or come up with a great check," Gavin said. "That takes a lot of the pressure off us on the attack end. We go down there, we finish, then they go back and come up with another big stop. It makes the day a lot easier."
Loyola outshot Towson, 24-14, two weeks after opening the season by also dominating that statistic against then-No. 7 Virginia.
The Tigers, meanwhile, continue to search for their offensive identity after graduating their top three scorers. They mustered little on offense for the second straight game, struggling to clear the ball all day and committing 27 turnovers in falling to 0-2 for the first time since 2002.
"Obviously, clearing, clearing, clearing will be a big emphasis for us, but also working to find some success on the offensive end," said Towson first-year coach Sonia LaMonica, a former teammate of Adams at Maryland and on the Australian national team.
The Tigers scored their fewest goals since an 8-1 loss to Johns Hopkins on April 25, 2001, and now have lost to Loyola 15 straight times at home, dating to 1980.
The Greyhounds are searching for their first NCAA bid since 2004, and still must face a schedule littered with nationally ranked teams such as James Madison, Notre Dame, Georgetown and Syracuse. To Adams, though, the dominant play of the defense so far is an encouraging sign.
"I have a lot of faith in our defense," Adams said. "We've got seven-deep on defense every time we're on the field. There's no real weak link."