In a tight game, a difference great or small can play a significant factor in an outcome — a lesson the Towson women’s lacrosse team confronted Sunday afternoon.
Relying on an offense that had averaged 13.3 goals in its first four games, the No. 13 Tigers were tripped by an inability to cash in on free-position shots in a 10-8 setback to No. 8 Stony Brook at Tiger Field.
Off to the program’s first 4-0 start in five years, Towson (4-1) had upset then-No. 10 Loyola Maryland on Feb. 24 and was seeking to add another highly ranked opponent to its register, but got little cooperation from the Seawolves (4-2), who won for the fourth time in five games.
The offense was held to its lowest scoring output of the season in part because of a poor showing on free-position chances from eight meters. The Tigers whiffed on their first seven free-position shots with three being turned back by Seawolves redshirt junior goalkeeper Kameron Halsall, two more ringing off posts and two more going wide left of the cage.
For the game, they converted only three of 11 — a number that coach Sonia LaMonica sought from a staffer afterward.
“I thought Stony Brook’s goalie played a really solid game today and made a lot of great saves, and we just didn’t capitalize on some of those opportunities — eight meters being one of them and just some other opportunities we had in our settled offense,” she said. “Really to me, that was the biggest difference and took the wind out of our sails a little bit. … If you can’t capitalize on some of your scoring opportunities, it’s just tough to pull out wins against a great team.”
After missing on its first seven opportunities, Towson did score three consecutive goals on free-position shots. But LaMonica acknowledged the challenge of deciphering Halsall, a member of the Canadian national team, and her defensive teammates such as graduate student midfielder Ally Kennedy.
“Their goalie had a great game, and she did a really good job of holding her positioning,” LaMonica said. “Ally Kennedy crashes hard stick-side on the shooters. So you’ve got to have good speed coming off of the line. That’s definitely something that we were prepared for and knew coming into the game. It’s just a matter of finding a way to get the job done. Ultimately, we’ve just got to be better finishers, particularly on the eight meters.”
While the Tigers went 0-for-4 on free-position chances in the first half, they struggled mightily against the Seawolves’ matchup zone defense, sliding into a 6-2 deficit at halftime. Stony Brook coach Joe Spallina said the strategy centered on applying pressure on the ball carriers.
“We were trying to get them to switch hands and then press out into a double, and we were into a zone off-ball,” he said. “It’s pretty complex. Our kids did a really good job of carrying it through. We forced them into a lot of thinking within their offensive scheme, and it took them almost every shot clock. I don’t think they took one shot under the first 30 seconds. So it forced them to really soak up a lot of time.”
Sophomore midfielder Blair Pearre, a Pikesville resident and McDonogh graduate, paced Towson with three goals, and junior attacker Kerri Thornton and freshman midfielder Lindsey Marshall, a Columbia resident and Catonsville graduate, scored two goals each.
But graduate student attacker Nikki Sliwak, a transfer from Maryland who entered the game as the offense’s top playmaker in points (14) and assists (six), was limited to one goal on three shots, one assist and six turnovers. Spallina said Sliwak was a focal point of the Seawolves’ defensive attention.
“We knew where she was,” he said. “We’ve seen her before when we played against her at Maryland. She’s an excellent player. Her one goal was a back-door cut, I believe. I thought our defense did a good job of identifying where the danger was, which is something we’ve been conscious of. Obviously, it’s a matchup zone, but we’re looking to eliminate other teams’ best options. And it forced them to wait for other kids to step up. If a team can beat you with its second, third or fourth options, that’s when things become a little bit dicey, but our kids did a really good job of taking away their top decision-maker.”
Freshman midfielder Jaden Hampel scored three goals for Stony Brook, and graduate student midfielder Kaeli Huff, a USC transfer, chipped in one goal and two assists. Kennedy — one of the heavy favorites to win the Tewaaraton Award, college lacrosse’s version of the Heisman Trophy — needed a game-high eight shots to score two goals and add one assist while being marked by Tigers sophomore defender Olivia Malamphy, a Crofton resident and Archbishop Spalding graduate who transferred from Boston College.
Towson will embark on a three-game road swing over 11 days beginning with Wednesday’s trip to Philadelphia to tangle with Temple. Despite the team failing to extend its winning streak, LaMonica said she can find reasons to be optimistic about the team’s performance.
“It stings because coming into this game, I really believed that this was a team we could handle and we’re capable,” she said. “But unfortunately, while Stony Brook is a great team, we just came up short in not executing a couple things that we needed to and that we can. I am encouraged. A two-goal loss to me is encouraging. We’ve got a great group, and they’re hungry, and they’re going to stay hungry.”
NO. 13 TOWSON@TEMPLE
Wednesday, 3 p.m.
Video: ESPN Plus