In the midst of a two-game losing skid, and with his Towson women's soccer team on the outside looking in, coach Greg Paynter would not be faulted if he was anxious about the program's hopes of qualifying for the Colonial Athletic Association tournament.
But after playing nine of their first 16 games on the road, the Tigers (7-8-1, 2-4 CAA) will conclude their season with three games at home. More importantly, Paynter said he senses a group of players brimming with confidence.
“I think we’ve been battle-tested this season,” he said Tuesday afternoon. “We’ve gone on the road and played really, really well, and I think when you have those situations, they give you a little bit of confidence. Playing Northeastern at home [this Thursday] — on paper — is a little easier than going to William & Mary and playing. So I think what we’ve done the last few weeks in conference, even though we have a 2-4 record, two of those games have been decided by just one goal. We’ve been in those games with a good chance at the end. I think our girls believe in themselves and what’s been happening so that we can come out strong on Thursday.”
Towson has dropped back-to-back games to William & Mary (1-0 last Thursday) and James Madison (2-1 in double overtime last Sunday), but Paynter noted that the Tribe and Dukes sit in first and third place, respectively, in the league.
Northeastern, though, is no slouch, offsetting a 4-7-3 overall record with a 4-1 mark in the CAA, good enough for second place.
"For us to qualify for the tournament, Thursday is certainly a must-win to get those three points," he said. "[But] I don't think the girls feel a lot of pressure. I think they know how good we are, I think they know how well we've been playing and how hard we've been battling. I think they look at it as an opportunity, an opportunity to do something that hasn't been done in a long time and accomplish something."
The Tigers, who joined the CAA starting in 2002, have never qualified for the league tournament. Making history by finishing in the top six in the conference standings is the first priority.
"To make it to the CAA would be a great accomplishment, and I'm confident that we have a chance," Paynter said. "We have a chance right now with two home games left. Home is a lot easier than playing on the road. We're playing two more quality teams at home in Northeastern and Hofstra [on Sunday], but I think our girls are fired up, and they're ready for that challenge this week."