Towson women’s lacrosse can’t solve red-hot Drexel in 9-8 overtime loss

Corinne Bednarik made sure Jenika Cuocco’s effort did not go wasted.

Cuocco made a game-high 16 saves — including two in overtime — and Bednarik scored the game-winning goal with 22.6 seconds left in the extra session to propel visiting Drexel to a 9-8 victory over Towson in a key Coastal Athletic Association matchup Friday before an announced 247 at Tiger Field in Towson.

Bednarik’s tally was her fourth goal and fifth point of the game and — just as importantly — cemented what Cuocco and the defense had done for much of the game.

“We just really needed to have their back,” said Bednarik, a fifth-year attacker. “They had our backs when it really wasn’t going our way. We weren’t going to turn back without a fight, and we had to back up our defense. So that’s what we did.”

Cuocco’s performance wasn’t even a season high. She turned aside 18 shots in a 14-7 loss to No. 4 Maryland on Feb. 21.

But the redshirt sophomore goalie made a game-high five stops in the second quarter and a total of eight in the third and fourth frames. Many of her saves were of the highlight-reel variety when the Tigers had point-blank chances, and she anchored a defensive showing that shut out Towson for a 22:33 span bridging the first three quarters and then the final 13:32 in regulation and overtime.

As well as she played, Cuocco was less-than-pleased with her one-save outing in the first quarter.

“I started off the game not my normal,” she said. “I wasn’t really watching the ball. But I have a great defense in front of me, and they keep me calm when I start to get a little stressed. I think it was just being able to take a step back and saying, ‘All right, it’s just a game, and it’s a game of runs like our coaches say.’ I just let the ball do the work and trusted in myself to make the saves.”

Cuocco might have saved her best for the end. The Dragons controlled the draw to open overtime, but turned the ball over. The Tigers pounced with a 3-on-2 fastbreak, but Cuocco used her stick to get a piece of a shot by senior midfielder Lindsey Marshall, a Columbia resident and Catonsville graduate. Cuocco then made another stick save on an attempt by junior attacker Halley Koras.

“That was pretty scary,” Cuocco admitted of Towson’s fastbreak. “We were pretty prepared for that. My defense did a great job of recovering back. I think just being able to read the shot and being a little patient on the fake really helped, and I was able to make the save. I definitely was a little nervous when that was happening though.”

Towson coach Kristen Carr declined to cite Cuocco’s save on Marshall’s shot as the game’s turning point.

“You never want to put so much pressure on one moment because there are so many moments that happen throughout the game,” she said. “I think you could go back and look and say, ‘Oh, if we did this, you could say it’s a different outcome and no overtime is needed.’ There are moments you want back, but at the end of the day, we’re a team, and we’ve got to continue to stick together and take care of business, and we’re going to look forward to doing that the next time we’re out on the field.”

Given a second chance, Drexel capitalized. The offense worked the ball around until Bednarik found a lane to curl the right post and then slide the ball past Tigers senior goalkeeper Jo Torres.

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“It just happened to be me free on the backside,” Bednarik said. “I just took my opportunity. I trust all six people out there, and it just fell right into my stick. So I just took the opportunity. But I couldn’t have done it without the six other people on offense.”

Despite trailing 8-6 early in the fourth quarter, the Dragons scored the game’s last three goals in an 11:12 stretch. Coach Katie O’Donnell recalled how they overcame a three-goal deficit midway through the second quarter to escape with a 13-12 upset of then-No. 16 Navy on March 6.

“There wasn’t a lot of panic,” she said. “It’s really that chip-away mentality, one play at a time, and let the game come to you. That’s what we did.”

Fifth-year senior midfielder Alex Wall scored two goals, and redshirt senior attacker Allison Drake compiled one goal, one assist and two caused turnovers to help Drexel (10-3, 5-0 CAA) extend its winning streak to six.

Towson junior midfielder Milana Zizakovic scored three goals, senior attacker Lindsay Clarke (Hereford) added one goal and two assists, and senior defender Blair Goodrich finished with six draw controls, three caused turnovers and two ground balls. But the Tigers (6-8, 3-3) lost for the third time in their past four games and own only a half-game lead over Delaware (9-4, 2-3) and Elon (6-7, 2-3) in the race for the fourth and final berth in the CAA Tournament.

“I think we want to take each game as that game,” Carr said. “Obviously, we have a goal of what we want to do this season. If we stick to us and our game plan and play for us, then at the end of the day, we’re going to be in a good spot.”

Towson at Campbell

April 20, noon