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Towson women’s lacrosse emphasis on family embodied by presence of four sets of sisters

Many teams like to preach family. The Towson women’s lacrosse program may best exemplify that.

The Tigers’ roster features four sets of sisters, including three pairs of twins. Senior Kaitlin and junior Kerri Thornton are starting attackers who rank fourth and fifth in goals and points, respectively, for the Tigers. Junior midfielders Kerri and Nicole Liucci have compiled a total of 16 goals and three assists, senior midfielders Hannah and Madison Hobbes have combined for four goals and one assist, and freshmen Paige, a midfielder, and Paiton Abbott, a defender, have made two appearances each.

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“It’s not something you would see a lot,” said Paige Abbott, a 19-year-old Mount Airy resident and South Carroll graduate who is six minutes older than Paiton. “I don’t even know another team that has two sets of siblings. It was just a cool dynamic to go into.”

Coach Sonia LaMonica said she is thankful that the sisters have contributed to the team’s success, which includes a 16-6 thumping of Elon in Wednesday’s Colonial Athletic Association Tournament quarterfinal. Towson (9-7), the No. 4 seed in the conference tournament, will face No. 1 seed Drexel (12-1) in a semifinal Friday at 4 p.m.

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“At the end of the day, we truly value every member of our team, and it’s the icing on the cake when siblings can be out on the field together,” she said. “It doesn’t always work out that way, but when it does, it’s definitely a special thing. It makes me happy for those siblings. There’s no guarantee, but it has been great to see all of our girls develop.”

Towson #15 Kerri Thornton prepares to fire off the 8th goal for Towson, as Stony Brook defenders, from left, #8 Sydney Gagnon and #5 Rayna Sabella attempt to block her shot. Stony Brook women's lacrosse team beat Towson, 10-8, at Tiger Field. March 7, 2021 p5
Towson #15 Kerri Thornton prepares to fire off the 8th goal for Towson, as Stony Brook defenders, from left, #8 Sydney Gagnon and #5 Rayna Sabella attempt to block her shot. Stony Brook women's lacrosse team beat Towson, 10-8, at Tiger Field. March 7, 2021 p5 (Amy Davis)

Three of the four sets of sisters grew up on Long Island, New York, and played at Ward Melville High School in Setauket-East Setauket. The Thorntons, Hobbes and Liuccis said they all agreed sometime in the fall of 2015 to commit to the Tigers.

While the Baltimore area was uncharted territory for the Thorntons and Hobbes, the Liucci sisters had an older sister, Andrea, who attended Loyola Maryland.

“She liked it,” said the 20-year-old Kerri Liucci, who is one minute older than Nicole. “She said it was really nice and that it was a good fit for her. So we thought it would be a good fit for us as well.”

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Some programs dropped out of the running when they told the sisters they were interested in one, but not both. The Hobbes said they did not consider Georgetown after that school expressed interest in only one, and the Liuccis said they crossed off Marquette and Colorado from their list for the same reason.

“We’re kind of a package deal,” quipped the 22-year-old Madison Hobbes, who is one minute older than Hannah. “Not all schools would be wiling to take twins. Considering that we’re both very similar players, I feel like maybe some schools would say, ‘We don’t need two of the same player.’ But Towson didn’t really care.”

Hofstra captain #23 Alexa Mattera fires a shot that eludes Towson goal keeper Carly Merlo, scoring Hofstra's 4th goal, despite defensive efforts by TowsonÕs #10 Gabby Biondi and #20 Kerri Liucci. A few minutes later Hofstra scored again, tying the score at the half, 5-5. April 25, 2021
Hofstra captain #23 Alexa Mattera fires a shot that eludes Towson goal keeper Carly Merlo, scoring Hofstra's 4th goal, despite defensive efforts by TowsonÕs #10 Gabby Biondi and #20 Kerri Liucci. A few minutes later Hofstra scored again, tying the score at the half, 5-5. April 25, 2021 (Amy Davis/Baltimore Sun)

While the distance from home (for the Hobbes), proximity to home (for the Abbotts) and academic offerings (for the Thorntons) were key selling points for Towson, another factor was LaMonica, whose husband, Michael, is an assistant coach on her staff. Their presence and an annual shindig at their home every August to help introduce incoming freshmen to their older teammates signified a familial touch often lacking in the world of college sports, the sisters said.

“Sonia and Mike are family because they’re married. So I feel like it kind of stems from them,” Madison Hobbes said. “They’re each other’s family, and then it trickles down.”

“I think it just shows that they care about the family dynamic enough to recruit siblings here,” Kerri Thornton said. “I think that’s pretty cool.”

LaMonica, who said her husband often reminisces about the two seasons he played with younger brother Dan at Maryland, said they try to foster a sense of togetherness.

“I think for recruits and their parents, there is a sense of comfort there, that their daughters will walk into a program with coaches who have a perspective on having kids and having that parent vibe that Mike and I can maybe offer,” she said. “I think that certainly is an element that adds to that dynamic.”

Correctly identifying among the three pairs of twins is a continuing education. At 5-foot-6, Kerri Liucci is 2 inches taller than Nicole, which helps. At 5-4, Paige Abbott is 2 inches taller than Paiton, and Paige, who plays in the midfield, is left-handed, while Paiton, who plays on defense, is right-handed.

But the Hobbes sisters are both 5-8, which they said continues to befuddle the coaches.

“Our coaches still definitely can’t tell us apart,” Hannah Hobbes said. “[Assistant coach] Shanna [Brady] can, but Mike and Sonia have no idea.”

Interjected Madison Hobbes: “Sometimes I feel like if I’m not wearing my number, they have no idea who it is. One time Hannah made a mistake, and our coaches were like, ‘Come on, Madison!’ I was like, “That wasn’t even me, but OK.’”

The Liuccis and Hobbes are roommates in off-campus houses, sharing clothes, vehicles and sometimes class schedules. (The Hobbes are majoring in business administration with concentrations in marketing, and the Liuccis are studying communications.) The Abbotts were roommates in the fall, but have since been split up into single on-campus rooms in an effort to contain the coronavirus pandemic. That arrangement has aided their relationship

“One of our biggest fights [when they shared a room] was the TV because I like to sleep with it on, and she likes to sleep with it off,” said Paiton Abbott, who is studying exercise science with a minor in health sciences while her sister is majoring in both health education and promotion and pre-nursing. “So we’d have to alternate every night. But it was fun to share a room because we could stay up at night and talk. We don’t share a room at home, so having a room here was a new experience for us. We would pick a TV show or a movie and watch it together.”

Unlike the other sisters, the Thorntons had one year when they were separated as Kaitlin was a freshman at Towson for 2017-18 while Kerri was a senior in high school. Kaitlin Thornton, who will graduate this month with a bachelor’s in social science, admitted she enjoyed her one year flying solo.

“There was a part of me that was like, ‘Maybe I don’t want Kerri to join me here,’” Kaitlin said with a smile. “But once she came, I was so happy to have her with me because she is my sister and my best friend. And we know how to play with each other.”

The Thorntons live in an off-campus house, but are not roommates. After sharing one bedroom in their parents’ house, the space apart has been gratifying.

“She’s a little messier than I am, and I’m a neat person,” said Kerri Thornton, who is majoring in family studies and minoring in health sciences. “So when I walk into the room and I see all of her clothes on the floor, I’ll make a fuss about it, and then she’ll get mad. So sometimes we bicker at home just from being together in the same room in the same house 24/7. Coming here and being able to go up to my room by myself definitely helps.”

No matter the distance however, the four sets of sisters said they enjoy an on-field chemistry that is difficult to explain. They said they simply have an innate sense of where the other is and what she plans to do with or without the ball.

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“It’s like a telepathy,” Kerri Liucci said. “We have a better connection.”

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The number of sisters on the roster will be reduced by at least 25% next season. The Hobbes will graduate later this month and are planning to live in Baltimore. Kaitlin Thornton is weighing a return for another season next spring. But for now, they enjoy a camaraderie that even some of their friends can’t quite comprehend.

“When that’s brought up in conversation, they just talk about how cool that experience must be, to know that you’re going from being at home in high school with your hometown friends to a whole new place and having that experience together,” Kaitlin Thornton said. “It’s not something that everyone gets to have.”

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