It is a trope as old as written language itself. The underdog versus the titan. David versus Goliath. Rudy versus the Notre Dame coaching staff.
This is not one of those stories.
Two titans of the CAA, the Towson Tigers and the Northeastern Huskies, squared off in a top-four league matchup on Sunday at Parsons Field. The Tigers entered the game leading the conference, unbeaten with a 7-0-2 record. The Huskies trailed in fourth place, with a 5-1-3 record.
Each team boasted a strong defense and lightning fast offense, setting the stage for an absolute slugfest in the midfield — and that’s exactly what they got, with Northeastern outlasting Towson en route to a 1-0 victory.
The opening whistle saw Northeastern pounce on the ball, and refuse to relinquish possession. The midfield play, led by fifth-year Alexis Legowski, stifled the potent offense of the Tigers. Legowski combined with sophomore Vivian Akyirem to test the senior Towson goalkeeper Riley Melendez early on in the opening frame.
The Huskies did a great job at using vertical play to work their way in behind the Tiger’s defense. Passes on the ground were more rewarding than passes over the top in the air, and senior Jessie Hunt was more than aware of this.
Hunt attempted to link up with the deep-lying forward Akyirem several times, but the tip of the spear for Northeastern was flagged offside, demonstrating the discipline of the Towson defense.
After working hard to win the ball back in the midfield, Hunt played a perfect through-ball to Akyirem, who had timed her run perfectly. Hunt’s ball found the surging striker in stride, leaving just one Tiger to beat, the goalkeeper Melendez. She dropped her left shoulder before cutting to the right, a perfect body feint, and dribbled past the desperate hands of the opposing netminder. A touch opened up space away from the defeated keeper, and a shot to the bottom right of the net was the finishing move to a spellbinding play that materialized out of nowhere.
The goal was an incredible confidence booster for the Huskies, as they ramped up the pressure even further. Hunt found a scoring chance of her own, after the dynamic Akyirem re-centered an errant cross to the top of the penalty area. Hunt had a window to shoot, and fired towards the top of the net. Unfortunately, Hunt put too much power on the shot, and it clattered off the crossbar before being cleared away by a Tiger.
The Huskies cruised to the end of the first 45 without allowing the Tigers a clear scoring chance. Towson, a team that makes very few substitutions usually, turned towards the bench for a spark. Senior Alexandra Rush was exactly what they needed. She started the second half for the Tigers and immediately made an impact on the right wing.
Her speed combined with fresh legs led to her reliably penetrating the Northeastern defense, which played against the Huskies back line that would play the entire 90 minutes. Desperation seeped into the Tiger’s play early in the second half, as it became clear that Northeastern was unrelenting in their efforts to score. They finally found their footing, and were able to apply sustained pressure on the Huskies by dominating possession in their attacking half.
The Tigers were focused on exploiting the wings, but the Northeastern fullbacks held strong. The best scoring chance for Towson would not start from the wings, but from the center. A wall pass from senior Jasmine Hamid opened up the top of the penalty area for Rush to dive in towards goal. A touch to her right opened up the window further, and she fired a shot towards the left corner of the net. Graduate student goalkeeper Holland Stam saw the entire play unfold, and leapt off her line to cut down the angle. She made herself big before extending her right leg out as far as she could reach, stopping the shot from Rush and keeping the Tigers off the scoreboard.
Stam and the Huskies would weather the storm and hold on to their one goal advantage. Stam would end up making six saves during the game, but none were more important than her denial of Rush in the 60th minute.
It was a complete performance from the Huskies, as they proved they were the better team in the meetup with Towson. A full 90 minutes of excellent defending, stifling midfield play, and constantly threatening offense was enough to slay the mighty Tigers.
Northeastern will stay in town as they welcome the Stony Brook Seawolves to Parsons Field in the final regular season game at home this season. Khalin Kapoor and Peyton Doyle will have the call live from Brookline on Thursday at 6 pm on WRBB Sports+.