It is official: The road to the Colonial Athletic Association Championship game will not run through Williamsburg.
William and Mary (11-5-1, 5-4), slid from the top of the CAA over the weekend, falling to James Madison 1-0 on the road Friday before suffering a 2-0 road loss to Towson. The College’s slow finish is threatening to shatter what was a dominant season for the Tribe.
Head coach John Daly was optimistic when he spoke to Tribe Athletics Thursday in advance of the weekend’s games.
“All we can do is control our own destination, do what we do and let the chips fall as they may,” Daly told Tribe Athletics. “JMU is a good team [and] they are pretty solid everywhere — the kind of team which we have to be prepared for.”
The chips did not fall as the College had hoped. Faced with a daunting pair of road CAA matchups within a three-day period, the Tribe fell flat with two shutout losses. The College has not scored in the past 220 minutes of play.
Going into the games, the Tribe held control of its own destiny with a chance to clinch the No. 2 seed and a valuable first round bye in the CAA playoffs. Instead, JMU seized the second seed behind Northeastern (12-4-3, 7-1-1), as the Tribe fell to No. 4 in the CAA behind No. 3 Hofstra (11-6-1, 6-2-1). The conference is certainly competitive, but the Tribe’s recent slide, losing three of the last four CAA matchups, is still cause for concern.
Friday’s game against JMU provides some reason for optimism as the Tribe heads into the playoffs. The first half ended scoreless, but the Tribe held a 3-1 advantage in shots on goal, registered by senior forward Emory Camper and junior midfielder Leci Irvin. Junior goalkeeper Caroline Casey only had to make one save in the entire half. Both teams competed well in what was a very close matchup.
In the second half, JMU scored the only goal in a heartbreaking fashion for the Tribe. Taking advantage of a free kick, the Dukes sent the ball deep into the goalie box. In the ensuing chaotic scuffle, an unlucky deflection off of a Tribe defender sent the ball into the net, propelling JMU to a 1-0 lead in the 67th minute. The College’s attack could not manage to find the equalizer, as JMU keeper Ellen Forrest registered four saves in the match. JMU outshot the Tribe 11-8 by the final whistle, but the Tribe held a 4-2 advantage on shots on goal.
In Thursday’s pregame interview, Daly noted that the College would have to be wary of Towson.
“[Towson] has rebounded well from their sticky start and they’ve had good results recently,” Daly told Tribe Athletics.
In Sunday’s game, Towson had much more at stake than the Tribe, and it showed. Towson secured the final spot in the CAA playoffs in a 2-0 victory over the College. In just an 11-minute span at the start of the game, Casey had to make two saves. However, the second save deflected to a Tiger forward, who scored cleanly for the early 1-0 lead.
The shootout continued throughout the game, as Casey fought to protect the team’s chances with a total of six saves against Towson’s 17 shots. The Tribe simply couldn’t match Towson’s offensive firepower, racking up just 10 shots, with only three on goal. Towson’s second score came off of a header at the 40th minute, assisted by a free kick into the box, and the College left Towson, Md. with a 2-0 loss.
On a more positive note, the Tribe only committed three penalties, as compared to the Tigers’ ten. Irvin, Camper, and senior midfielder Aly Shaughnessy all managed two shots apiece for the College.
Although backing into the playoffs with consecutive shut-out losses to conference opponents is among the worst ways to enter the postseason, the Tribe cannot be easily written off, especially considering that the last two losses were road matchups with less than 48 hours between games. As the fourth seed, the College will host a first round game in Williamsburg.
The Tribe hosts Drexel (7-8-3, 4-3-2 CAA) this Sunday at 2 p.m. at Martin Family Stadium in the CAA tournament’s opening round. The Tribe looks to avenge a 3-2 overtime loss to the Dragons in the teams’ most recent meeting Oct. 12.