Head coach Craig Jones looked at his players after a two-goal loss Friday afternoon and demanded a charged response Sunday.
He knew his team could rebound from the 3-1 defeat at the hands of VMI to respond decisively, regaining ground in both its record and its confidence. So when GW took the field Sunday in the second game of the Jay Sculley Memorial Tournament, the team played its way to a solid 2-0 victory over Liberty.
“We asked the players for a response, so I think today, defensively, we just seemed to work a lot harder,” Jones said. “Overall, the team as a group just defended a lot better. That was the biggest lesson for us ... that if we don’t give goals away, we’ll look like we’re going to score. And that happened today.”
The Colonials allowed two goals in the first seven minutes of Friday’s game. Though sophomore Andri Alexandersson netted his first goal of the season to put GW on the board, VMI responded once more before the end of the half to bring the score to the eventual final tally, 3-1.
Allowing three goals pointed to the team’s defensive breakdown Friday, Jones said, a lapse in play he looked to his team to correct in time for Sunday’s competition.
“The biggest disappointment from Friday was the goals we conceded,” Jones said.
The Colonials headed into Sunday’s game mentally prepared to rebound from the loss, with an extra emphasis on maintaining strong play in the back to avoid defensive breakdowns. In the first, GW traded shots with Liberty, highlighted by senior Seth Rudolph’s dramatic breakaway, which ended with the keeper stopping his shot. Neither team found the back of the net, and the half ended in a scoreless tie.
After the break, the Colonials made adjustments to their play and focused on getting the ball wide. And in the team’s first chance to get the ball past Liberty’s defense, freshman Ross Higgins sent a pass to Rudolph at the far post, who headed the ball into the net for the first tally of the game.
Less than 10 minutes after the first goal, Rudolph – who had been practicing free kicks throughout the weekend – had the chance to take one. He buried the ball in the back of the net, bringing the score to 2-0 and scoring both goals in what would eventually become a Colonial shutout victory.
“I’m absolutely delighted. We were looking for a response from the team after Friday’s loss. I thought the guys came out strong, which is what we wanted to do,” Jones said. “And they showed a little fight and a little character and a little toughness that we may have lacked on Friday and got the win.”
The weekend’s 1-1 record for the Colonials shows the team’s mentality: After a mistake, Jones said his players are focused on staying mentally tough and responding to slips in play or losses with renewed effort.
The Colonials travel to Providence next Sunday, when they will take on the Bryant Bulldogs.
“For me, it’s a very good team. They’re going to win some games this year,” Jones said.