The Colonials entered their final game of the season still searching for their first conference victory.
GW (5-12-1, 1-8 A-10) had struggled to score goals all season - before this weekend’s play, the Colonials had been shut out in five of their seven Atlantic 10 conference games.
Throughout the fall, the team’s offensive struggles had been at the forefront of their performance, overshadowing strong defensive showings and reflecting in its record.
“We have been solid defensively but we have had offensive struggles, and that has been true for a couple of years now,” head coach Sarah Barnes said. “When we are sharp on offense, we are a tough team to play.”
Friday, GW was shut out for the sixth time in conference play against A-10 newcomer Butler. The 1-0 score was the fifth match of the season where the Colonials were held scoreless while only conceding a single goal.
Despite the frustrating outcome Friday, the Colonials used their past offensive struggles as motivation Sunday, when they stepped onto the pitch against Saint Louis for their final game of the year.
It proved to be GW’s best game of the season.
“We have played pretty good soccer all year. We just could not finish games,” senior midfielder Molly Bruh said “Today it all came together.”
The Colonials scored the first goal of the match in the 26th minute and never looked back. Sophomore midfielder Nicole Belfonti gathered a long pass from Bruh, maneuvering around the last defender before blasting a shot into the right side of the net. Belfonti’s goal was just the first of four first half goals for the Colonials.
Senior forward Adriana Moya and Bruh each added a goal in their final collegiate soccer match and junior midfielder Alex Neal capped off GW’s first half dominance with a goal in the 45th minute. Saint Louis managed to score a goal in the second half but was never able to manage a comeback. The Colonials won 4-1 to earn their first victory in conference play.
“We have been playing well. We just haven’t been getting the results, and it’s hard,” Moya said. “We played well today, and it’s a great way to end the season.”
GW’s four first half goals exceeded their goal total for all of conference play. Before Sunday’s victory, the Colonials had only managed three goals in eight conference games.
Barnes credited her team’s unexpected offensive success against Saint Louis to the Colonials’ ability to be prepared and to remain composed under pressure.
“We were very composed today. Our team has had a lot of challenges this year and we have battled in every game. We’ve been through a lot this year and we showed today that we can work through and learn from those experiences,” Barnes said. “It’s a great statement win heading into next season. We are really excited about the future.”
Barnes is already looking to next year. She said she’s excited to begin her second year at the helm of the program and believes the momentum gained by winning the last game of this season will carry over to next season.
Though her squad will lose four seniors to graduation, young players made large contributions this season and their play will only improve with time, Barnes added.
“We are excited about the future. The process is not complete but we have seen a big step forward this year,” Barnes said.