GW women fall short in bid to upset Virginia in opener

Nobody would have blamed the GW women’s soccer team if it had chosen to give up after falling three goals behind the University of Virginia Tuesday at South Riding Field.

But the Colonial women didn’t give anyone the chance. After the Cavaliers took a 5-2 lead with 10 minutes left in the game, the Colonial women stormed back with two late goals to close the gap to 5-4, before GW’s first match of the season ended in a loss to the sixth-ranked team in the nation.

“That’s what it takes in order to get national recognition,” GW head coach Michele Rodriguez-Smith said. “You have to play in spite of what the score is.”

A minute after Virginia (1-0) had forged its three-goal lead, Jane Lea kicked a long ball to a sprinting Jane Anderson, who got free of a defender on the right side of the goal box. The senior blasted a shot under the left arm of Cavalier goalie Julie Harris to narrow the gap to two goals.

“We just kept fighting,” Anderson said. “We’ve been in that position before and we were confident we could still come back.”

GW (0-1) was back on the attack in the 84th minute, as sophomore Lauren Papalia got loose on a breakaway. Harris came out to challenge the shot and fouled Papalia, which resulted in a penalty kick by Lea. Her shot found the upper left-hand corner of the net for her fourth point of the match, which brought GW within one goal.

The Colonial women continued to put pressure on Virginia’s defense, but could not score the equalizer in the final six minutes.

Despite taking a loss in the first match of the season, Rodriguez-Smith and the Colonial women said they were pleased with the team’s play.

“I think we looked pretty good and we showed a lot of pride, which is really important in the first game,” Anderson said. “Just to score four goals on No. 6 in the nation, to get that many good chances, is positive for us.”

The game’s pace was frenetic in the second half, as the two teams combined for seven goals in the final 25 minutes.

Virginia came out of a 1-1 halftime tie by putting a great deal of offensive pressure on GW. The Cavaliers had several scoring opportunities on two corner kicks early in the second half, but the GW defense and goalie Rima Sidhu made a spectacular defensive stand to keep the score tied.

More Virginia pressure resulted in a direct kick in the 65th minute. U-Va.’s Katie Tracy curled a shot around GW’s three-person wall and buried it in the right-hand side of the net despite a deflection by Sidhu. Virginia pushed its lead to 3-1 on a defensive lapse by the Colonial women in the 70th minute.

“They definitely picked up their intensity,” Rodriguez-Smith said. “We were on our heels in the beginning of the second half, but we quickly got organized and decided we needed to stay in this game.”

GW answered Virginia’s challenge three minutes later, as freshman Keisha Christoph fed Anderson on the right side. Anderson waited for Virginia’s goalie to challenge her before taking the shot. Harris got a piece of the ball, but it trickled into the net for the first of Anderson’s two goals.

The first half was a defensive and possession-oriented struggle. Virginia took a 1-0 lead in the 13th minute, but four minutes later, Lea found freshman Courtney Wright cutting up the center of the field. Wright rolled her first collegiate goal just inside the right post to tie the game at one.

The Cavaliers outshot the Colonial women 26-11, but GW had several great scoring chances.

“I am very happy with the chances we got, particularly since we haven’t had a preseason scrimmage,” Rodriguez-Smith said. “We’ve basically been going on gut feeling. If we would have capitalized on a few more, it would have been a different game.”

The close loss to Virginia not only will help GW in the national polls, but also will be something for the team to build on, Anderson said.

“We feel like we can play anyone in the country,” Anderson said. “It builds our confidence going into the rest of the season.”

The Colonial women travel to Colorado this weekend for two matches. They will face Colorado College Friday and the University of Colorado Sunday.

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