January 20, 2014

#LMRanks: No. 15 Towson Tigers (WD1)

by Laurel Pfahler | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter | College Preview 2014

Redshirt senior Ashleigh Rohrback was Co-CAA Player of the Year and hopes to lead the promising Tigers in 2014. (John Stohsacker)

Vitals

2013 Record: 10-9 (6-1 Colonial Athletic Association)
Coach: Sonia LaMonica (4th Year)
Record at Towson: 37-20

Power Ratings (scale of 1-5)

Offense: 4
Defense: 3
Goalkeeping: 4
Draw Control: 2

Top Returner

A Ashleigh Rohrback (R-Sr.)
Despite missing the first six games last year because of injury, Rohrback finished as the team's leading point-scorer with 19 goals and 32 assists. She was a first team All-Region selection and Co-CAA Player of the Year. Though best known for her ability to feed the ball to her teammates, she looks to be a bigger scoring threat this season, especially with the return of Andi Raymond likely drawing some of the pressure away from her.

X-Factor

D Nadia Podo (Jr.)
A raw player when she arrived at Towson, Podo is probably one of the most athletic players on the team. Though she hasn't been playing lacrosse as long as most of her teammates, Podo has shown vast improved in her footwork, ability to read plays on defense and general knowledge of the game. She will be a key in helping replace All-American defender Alexa Demski.

"I think she has been a little under the radar because of players like Alexa Demski," LaMonica said. "... She's extremely coachable and I think she's really going to emerge as one of our playmakers."

NCAA Tournament Trend

2009 – First Round
2010 – First Round
2011 – DNQ
2012 – First Round
2013 – First Round

What's New?

The Tigers added seven players from the Class of 2017, including six players from the state of Maryland. Attacker Michaela Duranti (St. Anthony's High School, Farmingdale, N.Y.) was the lone out-of-state recruit. She is joined by fellow attackers Gabby Cha and Jessica Carder, as well as midfielders Sam Brookhart and Colby Unkle. Kelly McQuilkin and Jordan Clarke will add depth on defense.

Telling Number

7
Losses last season that were decided by three goals or less – and five of them were to ranked opponents. The Tigers lost one-goal games to then-No. 7 Loyola and No. 12 Johns Hopkins, and they dropped three-goal games to national finalists Maryland and North Carolina, as well as then-No. 15 Georgetown. Towson's season ended with an 8-6 loss to Stony Brook in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

Enemy Lines

What Rival Coaches Say
"Super scrappy and super inconsistent. If they can moderate their play and use their veteran leadership, they could surprise a lot of people."

"Strong win over the US team in the fall – can this team perform like this in the spring? If so they will make quite a splash in the top 10."

"They beat Team USA in a scrimmage. I don't care if it was 'just a scrimmage.' They have huge potential and talent."

"They're athletic, talented, and play with something to prove. It should be exciting to watch how they do this season."

"We played them in the fall, and their goalie was outstanding. Anyone that plays at their place this year is going to benefit from seeing the Final Four site. It's always the goal to get there, so it's exciting to get that early glimpse and reminder of that end goal. I think they'll be a good team." 

2013 Recap

In a Nutshell: The Tigers lost seven of their first eight games, including six against top 15 teams, but went 9-2 to close the season on a high note. They avenged their lone conference loss by beating Hofstra in the CAA championship for their second straight title, but fell short of what would have been their first NCAA win, losing 8-6 to Stony Brook in the first round. Ashleigh Rohrback's return from injury played a big part in the team's second-half surge, as she finished with a team-high 51 points.

High Point: Towson took advantage of a second shot at Hofstra to win the CAA championship, 9-4, after dropping a one-goal loss to the Pride during the regular season. The rematch was tied at 4 early in the second half, but Towson closed the game on a 5-0 run sparked by a Rhiannon Coogle goal off a turnover. The defense limited Hofstra to five shots in the final 26 minutes and caused nine turnovers.

Low Point: If there was one bad loss for the Tigers last year, it was a 17-10 decision against unranked Richmond. It was a game sandwiched between pairs of back-to-back ranked opponents and could have been a morale lifter amidst the most challenging portion of the schedule. Instead, Richmond handed Towson its biggest loss, dominating start to finish. Syracuse, ranked fifth at the time, was the only other team to beat the Tigers by more than three goals.

2014 Preview

Best Case: The return of Andi Raymond from a medical redshirt and new emphasis on a quick transition provides Towson just what it needs to get over the hump in tight games, and the Tigers begin knocking off some of those ranked opponents they've come close to beating in recent years. They three-peat as CAA champions and finally get that first NCAA win.

Worst Case: The loss of All-American Alexa Demski leaves too big of a hole on defense and opponents figure out how to stop the Tigers' big three on offense – Rohrback, Coogle and Raymond. Towson's attempts at bringing in more elements from the men's game backfires as players try to get too creative and end up struggling with turnovers. It still ends with a third straight conference title, but the hopes of taking things to the next level fall short in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

Self Examination: Coach Sonia LaMonica on...

On Rhiannon Coogle:
"She's a player that will not be denied. She's got such incredible athleticism and quickness. She's very shifty, and she can shoot the heck out of the ball both left and right handed, so she's very capable of putting points on the board."

On Ashleigh Rohrback:
"She's one of our three quarterbacks along with Rhiannon (Coogle) and Andi Raymond. She has an incredible stick; she is such a tremendous ball handler and just has real smarts for the game in setting up teammates, finding open players. She's really developed her scoring game too, dodging and just being a real threat. The combination now has made her a tremendous attacker and great finisher. She was someone we relied on last season and she will no doubt continue that role this season.

On Kelsea Donnelly:
"None of it would be possible without our goalie, Kelsea. She allows us to play a style of defense I coin as a pressure-backer. Kelsea has the ability to play outside the crease but she's incredible when it comes to saving a goal. That was evident in the (fall) game against Team USA. She was seeing a lot of point-blank shots from some of the best players in the world, and she came up with huge saves.

Lacrosse Magazine will continue its 2014 college lacrosse preview throughout January and into February, with team-by-team breakdowns of the top teams in NCAA Division I, II and III men's and women's lacrosse. Follow the countdown at LaxMagazine.com/LMRanks and on twitter at #LMRanks.


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