April 24, 2011

Towson Turnaround Yields First CAA Regular Season Title with OT Triumph of Tribe

from press release

TOWSON, Md. – Freshman Rhiannon Coogle scored a career high four goals, including the game-winner with 39 seconds remaining in overtime, as Towson University (10-6, 6-1) clinched the Colonial Athletic Association regular season championship with an intense 12-11 CAA victory over William and Mary (9-6, 4-2) at Johnny Unitas® Stadium on Sunday afternoon.

With the win, the Tigers earned the top seed and the right to host the CAA Tournament at Unitas Stadium on May 5-7. Although the Tigers have won three CAA championships since 2004, this is the first time that Towson will be the top seed and the host.

The dramatic win over William and Mary was the Tigers' fifth consecutive victory. It also capped an incredible turnaround under the direction of Sonia LaMonica, Towson's first-year head coach. The Tigers started the season by losing four of their first five games. However, they regrouped and have gone 9-2 since then. During the nine-game stretch, the Tigers have won four overtime games.

"We've seen some adversity this year but we've hung tough and the girls believed in each other," said LaMonica. "We've gotten stronger and stronger with each game. To stand here today and say that we are going to host the CAA Championship is a very proud moment and we are very excited about it.

"We have a team of fighters and they have shown so many times that they are not going to give up," she added. "That shows a lot about our character."

With the teams tied at 11-11 in the second overtime segment, sophomore Kelly Custer won the draw control and the Tigers held the ball for more than two minutes. With less than a minute left, Custer found Coogle cutting towards the goal. She fed her the ball and Coogle scored to snap the tenth tie of the game.

After the Tribe won the ensuing draw control, sophomore Alexa Demski came up with a big defensive play with 14 seconds left. Demski forced a turnover by the Tribe's top scorer, Grace Golden, and came up with the ground ball. Demski fed the ball ahead and Towson ran out the clock for the victory.

The Tigers were forced to come from behind in the final minute of regulation to force overtime. With 49 seconds remaining in regulation, Custer scored the tying goal off a pass from junior Sarah Appelt.

The Tigers and the Tribe played a tight contest in which only once did either team own a lead of more than one goal. The Tigers owned one-goal leads seven times while the Tribe had a one-goal lead four times.

Since it was Senior Day, LaMonica started all eight of her seniors. The Tribe dominated play early in the game and owned a 1-0 lead, thanks to a free position goal by freshman Jenna Dougherty with 18:21 left in the first half.

The Tigers came back to grab a 2-1 lead by scoring two goals only 17 seconds apart. Sophomore Ashley Waldron scored the game-tying goal with 13:30 left in the half off a pass from Appelt. Moments later, senior Jess Dunn put the Tigers up by 2-1 when she scored off an assist by Custer.

A free position goal by sophomore Kyrstin Mackrides tied the game at 2-2. With 8:17 left, Waldron scored her second goal off a pass from Coogle to give Towson a 3-2 advantage. But, junior Stephanie Steinweg's free position goal tied the contest at 3-3.

A free position goal by junior Jackie LaMonica and Coogle's first goal of the game put the Tigers up by 5-3 with 2:22 left in the half. It turned out to be the only time in the contest either team had a two-goal advantage.

The Tribe cut its deficit to 5-4 when Mackrides scored her second goal of the game just 1:20 before halftime.

After trailing by 5-4 at intermission, William & Mary came out strong in the second half. Just 22 seconds into the second half, a free position goal by Golden tied the game at 5-5.

Coogle scored off a pass from Jackie LaMonica with 27:10 remaining in regulation to put the Tigers up, 6-5. But, the Tribe responded by scoring the next two goals. An unassisted goal by Golden tied the game at 6-6 with 25:05 left before freshman Taelor Salmon's unassisted goal gave William & Mary a 7-6 advantage with 24:20 remaining.

With 20:36 left, Coogle scored the game-tying goal off a pass from freshman Kelly Murkey, making it 7-7.

Less than two minutes later, Golden tallied her third goal of the game to give William & Mary an 8-7 lead with 18:37 remaining.

Once again, the Tigers responded. Waldron's third goal of the game, off a pass from Dunn, tied the game at 8-8 with 15:39 left to play. With 12:25 remaining, Custer gave the Tigers a 9-8 lead off a pass from sophomore Shannon Kennedy. It was the first assist of Kennedy's career.

William and Mary came back to tie the game at 9-9 with 10:20 left to play when Mackrides tallied her third goal of the contest, scoring off a pass from Dougherty.

The Tigers regained the lead with 7:45 left in regulation when Dunn scored off a pass from LaMonica, her second goal of the contest. But, William and Mary came right back to tie the contest at 10-10 when senior Maggie Anderson registered her first goal of the game off a pass from Salmon with 6:03 remaining.

That set the stage for Golden's goal with 2:13 left, a goal that gave the Tribe its final lead at 11-10. She had set up her own scoring opportunity by intercepting a pass as the Tigers were trying to clear.

After Demski won the draw control, the Tigers maintained possession. After Dunn's free position shot was blocked, Waldron took a shot that went wide. Finally, Custer tied the game by scoring her 19th goal of the season.

The game was as close as the final score as William and Mary owned a 31-30 advantage in shots. The Tigers won 14 of 27 draw controls. Towson also turned the ball over 17 times while William and Mary had 15 turnovers.

Sophomore goalkeeper Mary Teeters of Towson made nine saves while senior goalkeeper Kristy Hankinson, who made her first career start, had three saves. She played the first 8:17 of the game and didn't allow any goals.

Sophomore goalkeeper Emily Geary of the Tribe had six saves.

Golden led William and Mary with four goals as she upped her CAA-leading total to 49 goals on the season. Mackrides added three goals for the Tribe.

Coogle, who came into the game with only seven goals on the season, led the Tigers with four goals with one assist.

"Rhiannon didn't play like a freshman today," said LaMonica. "She played like someone with a great deal of experience and I'm very proud of her. She works very hard and wants to get better."

Waldron added three goals for the Tigers while Custer scored two goals and had two assists. Jackie LaMonica scored once and matched her career high with three assists. Dunn added two goals and had one assist.

Although she didn't score a goal, Demski had a big game. She won four draw controls, caused two turnovers and scooped up three ground balls. Appelt added two assists and had three ground balls.

The Tigers, who have now come from behind in nine of their 10 wins, earned the top seed for the CAA tournament despite tying for first place with James Madison (12-3, 6-1). Towson earned the tie-breaker over JMU with a 10-9 overtime win at Madison on April 15.

The Dukes, who are the defending CAA champions, will be the second seed for the CAA tournament. William and Mary, Old Dominion and Drexel are battling for the two other spots.

The Tigers, who have won at least ten games for the last four years, will be idle until hosting the CAA semifinals on May 5.

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