Towson women fall short in bid for their first NCAA tournament victory

COLLEGE PARK — Even when Stony Brook's Demmianne Cook edged to the sideline to confer with her coach during a stoppage of Friday night's NCAA tournament first round game, Towson defender Alexa Demski made sure she was never more than a few yards away.

One of the keys for the Tigers was to never lose site of Cook, who entered as the nation's leading goal scorer. While Cook finished with two goals, Stony Brook goalie Frankie Caridi was the biggest difference-maker by making seven saves with several from point-blank range.

The Tigers controlled portions of the game, but in the end, the Seawolves made just enough plays to hold on for a 8-6 victory. Stony Brook advances to Sunday's second-round game against No. 1 Maryland, which was the last team to beat them on March 17.

"We stuck to our game plan, we wanted to be aggressive," Towson coach Sonia LaMonica said. "We wanted to force them to play up-tempo. Stony Brook is a team that can look to take the wind out of your sails on the defensive end. They can also play run-and-gun. I think our defense did a stellar job tonight."

The Seawolves (17-2) qualified for the NCAA tournament for the first time on the heals of on an 11-game winning streak and their first America East championship. The CAA-champion Tigers (10-9) were making their second consecutive NCAA appearance and sixth overall. However, Towson is still looking for its first NCAA victory.

"I'm really happy with the season we had," LaMonica said. "We set the bar high from day one. We lost some players through injuries in the beginning of the year. We didn't change our goals because we believed in the players we had."

Just two minutes into the game, Cook soared above two defenders on a high pass from Claire Peterson and scored her 87th goal of the year. Amber Kupres increased the lead to 2-0 almost two minutes later.

Demski (Loch Raven), however, was effective containing Cook for much of the game.

"We watched a lot of film and she uses her height a lot to her advantage," Demski said. "I just focused on kind of limiting her ball handling. If she didn't have the ball, she can't score."

The Tigers eventually settled down and were more effective with controlling possession. Towson finally answered midway through the first half, and goals by Olivia Turner and Jackie LaMonica (Hereford) three minutes apart tied the game at two.

The score remained that way until the break. Each team had 10 shots, while Towson won four of the five draws.

Cook gave Stony Brook the lead, 3-2, with a nifty unassisted goal when she dodged through three defenders with 26:38 left in the game. Kupres scored again three minutes later. But the Tigers would not go quietly, and Lamonica pulled them to within 4-3 with 21:38 left in the game.

The Seawolves came up with numerous big stops defensively, and goals by Janine Hillier and Michelle Rubino increased their lead to 6-3 with 15:38 left. After Sarah Maloof (South River) pulled Towson to within two goals two minutes later, Hillier responded for Stony Brook.

"I'm tremendously happy for our program. It's a big deal to win a game in the NCAAs," Stony Brook coach Joe Spallina said. "It was big second-half effort, and our kids were able to regroup a little bit. We were out of our game a little bit in the first half, and that was a tribute to Towson."

Kupres scored with 8:13 left for an 8-4 lead and a comfortable margin for the Seawolves. Ashley Waldron scored twice in the final minutes to give Towson some hope, but there was not enough to time for the Tigers to make a run.

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