A promising start has devolved into a tense ending for the Towson women’s lacrosse team.
The Tigers dropped their fourth game in a row Sunday, a 10-9 setback to visiting Hofstra before an announced 300 at Tiger Field in Towson.
Towson (8-6 overall, 0-3 Colonial Athletic Association North Division) had an 8-2 record after a 20-10 rout of William & Mary on April 10, ranked No. 16 in the Inside Lacrosse poll, and looking forward to opening the divisional portion of its schedule against then-No. 12 Drexel. Since then, the Tigers have lost twice to the Dragons by a combined 22 goals — including a 17-7 thumping Friday in Philadelphia — and dropped a nonconference game at James Madison.
“When we’re coming up short in some games and we’ve been in a bit of a funk, that is a challenge,” coach Sonia LaMonica said. “We’re just continuing to encourage one another to keep fighting and making some small adjustments here and there to try and rise to the occasion and rise above it. This is adversity, and that’s what we’ve got to continue to fight through. It doesn’t define us. We just have to keep soldiering on and keep pushing through together as a team. That’s what we need to do.”
Sunday’s loss was exasperating on several levels. Towson sprinted to a 5-2 advantage in the first 11:40 of the game, trailed only twice, and took a 9-8 lead with 12:21 left in the fourth quarter after junior attacker Kerri Thornton’s pass to freshman midfielder Lindsey Marshall inside the Pride’s defense flew by her stick and junior goalkeeper Jess Smith into the net.
With 5:35 remaining in regulation, graduate student midfielder Alexa Mattera took senior defender Rayna Deltuva (Manchester Valley) around the right post and kept moving until she unleashed a low shot from the high slot that beat sophomore goalie Carly Merlo (Gerstell). That was Mattera’s fifth goal of the game.
Throughout the game, Tigers sophomore defensive midfielder Olivia Malamphy (Archbishop Spalding) face-guarded Hofstra leading scorer and senior attacker Alyssa Parrella, who had zero goals on three shots, one assist and one turnover through 56 minutes.
But with 3:19 left in the second half, Parrella — who leads the CAA with 252 career goals — curled the right post and scored over Malamphy on a textbook question mark dodge to score what would eventually hold up as the game-winning goal.
“Alyssa stepped up in a big moment for us, scoring that game-winning goal on a nice question mark dodge,” Pride coach Shannon Smith said. “They did a nice job face-guarding her, but big players step up in big moments. And Alexa did that for us as well. She took her opportunities and finished a lot of big-time shots for us in the first and second half. Alexa played really well defensively and took care of a lot for us on the offensive side of the field.”
Towson’s defensive strategy of forcing Hofstra to find another scoring source other than Parrella worked, but opened the door for Mattera to explode.
“Alyssa gets a lot of the attention obviously. She’s just an outstanding player, but they’ve got very capable offensive players, and Alexa Mattera is very capable,” LaMonica said. “She’s a left-hander, and she’s highly skilled. In those games, that’s what you want on your team — players that can step up when maybe your go-to gun is kind of being contained, which I think Olivia Malamphy did an outstanding job of limiting Parrella and forcing Hofstra to go to other people to try and step up. They found Alexa, and we needed to do a better job in transition of slowing the ball as well as just collectively as a team being able to slide to help on those drives.”
The Tigers had a couple of prime chances to take the lead before Parrella’s goal and tie the score afterward. The Pride’s Smith made a stick save against graduate student attacker Nikki Sliwak with 4:16 remaining. And with 2:01 left, another Towson possession ended with Mattera inducing sophomore midfielder Blair Pearre into a turnover. Hofstra then ran out the shot clock before tossing the ball into the corner, and the Tigers could not mount a game-tying effort.
“In moments, we were not moving the ball as fast as we needed to, and again, we had some opportunities with not converting some of those shots that maybe we did in the first half,” LaMonica said of the team’s lack of punch in the final 12:21 of the game. “They got into a bit of a rhythm with some draws.”
Pearre (McDonogh) paced Towson with four points on three goals and one assist, and Thornton had four points on one goal and three assists. Freshman midfielder Lindsey Marshall (Catonsville) totaled two goals and seven draw controls, and Merlo finished with a game-high nine saves.
The Tigers will wrap up the regular season with a rematch with the Pride (5-5, 1-2) on Saturday, and that game looms as a must-win scenario — if not for positioning in the CAA tournament, then for the players’ confidence.
“For morale and for our team to know that they are capable, we’ve got to bring confidence, we’ve got to play with confidence,” LaMonica said. “We’ve got to get back to who we feel we can be, but also as the season progresses, everybody gets better. We’ve got to continue to find ways to keep building and get better as well.”
Saturday, 1 p.m.