Yesterday's women's lacrosse game between Towson and Old Dominion was as close to a playoff game as it can get during the regular season. For the No. 18 Tigers, a win opened the door to postseason play.
Converting three early Lady Monarchs turnovers set the stage for a 10-5 Tigers victory that clinched a berth in the four-team Colonial Athletic Association tournament at Hofstra in two weeks. The CAA champion gets an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.
Though the Tigers (11-3, 5-2 CAA) finished their conference schedule yesterday with their sixth win in six games at Johnny Unitas Stadium, their prospects for finishing in the top four seemed iffy as April began.
In their first two CAA games, the Tigers fell to Delaware, 13-8, and to Hofstra, 10-6, but they were missing a couple of key starters - defender Martha Dwyer with the flu and midfielder Kelly Fitzgerald with a hip injury.
Since those two have returned, the Tigers have won five straight, starting with an 8-6 victory at George Mason on April 8.
"We've had two great weekends. We're really peaking at a great time," said Towson coach Missy Holmes, whose team has beaten CAA opponents George Mason, James Madison, William and Mary and Old Dominion within the past 10 days.
"After we beat George Mason in one of our first big wins in a close game, we got confidence back," said Tigers junior Becky Trumbo. "Now, everything is coming together. Our defense is stepping up, our freshman goalie Mandy [Corry] is playing incredible and our attack is really working as a unit."
Corry, who had eight saves against Old Dominion, led the CAA with a .591 save percentage going into the weekend. Last week's CAA Rookie of the Week for making a combined 34 saves against George Mason and James Madison, she also made 10 saves in Friday night's 12-4 win over No. 15 William and Mary.
Yesterday, the Tigers got going quickly with a transition goal from Trumbo and free-position goals from Amy Middleton and Shannon Witzel.
The Lady Monarchs (3-10, 0-6) tried to manage the clock with their slow-paced, settled offense, and it worked at times, especially during the three-goal run that tied the game at 3. But 18 turnovers and 25 fouls didn't help.
"We were trying to put a little bit more pressure on them," Holmes said. "They moved the ball a lot and used a lot of time on attack, so we knew when we had our chances we had to be aggressive, especially in offensive transition."
Once the Tigers used that transition to help pull ahead 5-3 on goals by Trumbo and Middleton, they never again trailed, thanks to a defense that allowed the Lady Monarchs just two goals in the final 40:37.
"Their defenders were on the body real tight and they stayed on the body," said Ashley Stanwick, a St. Mary's graduate who scored three goals for the Lady Monarchs. "In the second half, they were a lot more aggressive, played tighter on you and denied the ball."
Towson will play host to No. 11 Johns Hopkins tomorrow and Loyola on April 26 before heading to the CAA tournament.
Old Dominion 4 1 - 5
Towson 6 4 - 10
Goals: OD-Stanwick 3, Veneziale, Jacobs; T-Witzel 3, Middleton 2, Trumbo 2, Cayea 2, Bauer. Assists: OD-Veneziale 2, Jacobs; T-Witzel, Middleton, Trumbo, Mollot. Saves: OD-Gannon 5; T-Corry 8.