A-10 Preview: Soccer shoots to top conference

With Atlantic 10 conference play underway, both the men’s and women’s soccer teams have their sights set high. But this means something different for each team.

The men’s team wants to win the Atlantic 10 Championship, which has room for only the top four conference teams. GW qualified for the tournament last year, but this year the Colonials are striving for more. And the GW women’s soccer team, which failed to qualify for last year’s tournament, wants to improve on last year’s sixth place finish.

The men’s soccer team is in a good position to contend for a qualifying spot in the tournament. But so are four other teams, including new arrival Richmond.

At the end of the conference season, the top four teams in the conference advance to the A-10 Championship. Last year, teams included Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Dayton and GW. Dayton and Massachusetts tied for the regular season conference title, but it was Rhode Island that won its second consecutive tournament and advanced to the NCAA Tournament.

The Colonials season ended in Round One. They played through four overtimes before Dayton won it 5-4 in a shootout round.

The Colonials have said they are hungry to return and win the tournament. To do this, head coach George Lidster said the team will have to perform well in the early part of their schedule.

“Every game is going to be hard,” Lidster said. The Colonials are set to host Richmond Saturday afternoon at the Mount Vernon field to open the conference season. Lidster said he considers Richmond the strongest team in the conference.

If the Colonials are to finish in the top four in the conference and earn a post-season birth, they will have to play strong from the beginning. GW’s schedule includes three very difficult matches at the start.

The Colonials host Richmond on Saturday, followed by a road trip to take on Xavier – host of this year’s A-10 Tournament – and Dayton.

“Our first three games are going to be really hard, and we’ve got to get something out of those three games,” Lidster said.

The Spiders (3-3-1) are coming off a difficult non-conference streak, having lost to three nationally ranked teams and scoring just nine goals in seven games.

The Colonials hope to use a 3-1 victory over Radford University last Saturday as a springboard into conference play. Lidster said the win could help the team as the Colonials move onto conference play.

“We lost the momentum the last 20 minutes (of the game), but we still hung on to win. And that’s important for a team to show character,” Lidster said. “We showed that character in the last twenty minutes. We’re going to need that character in conference play.”

GW senior Michael Goldman said he believes the key for the Colonials is to play aggressive for the duration of the game.

“We need to play the whole 90 minutes. We can’t falter for five or ten minutes because that is when a good team is going to kill us,” Goldman said.

The Colonials have a difficult road trip late this season, which could be a crucial factor for A-10 tournament qualification. They must travel to Rhode Island and Massachusetts on Oct. 26 and 28.

“Rhode Island and Massachusetts away is going to be a very tough road trip for us,” Lidster said.

“Our goal: we plan on winning it (the conference championship),” said Senior Jason Holloway, who will return Saturday after missing four games with a hamstring injury. “We’re just going to take it one game at a time. We plan on being in the A-10 finals and going to the NCAAs.”

While the men’s team is shooting to win the A-10, the women’s team is looking to prove it is more than ready to contend for the A-10 title.

Although GW (2-3-0) has struggled the past two seasons, head coach Tanya Vogel said she believes this season will bring a dramatic improvement to the team.

“After we played Maryland, we realized we could compete with top 20 teams,” Vogel said of GW’s 2-0 loss in College Park, Md.

Vogel said she expects Massachusetts (3-1-0), which has won two-straight titles, and Rhode Island to be among the top teams in the conference.

Sarah Cook, Martha Conover and goalie Julie Podharsky are all preseason All-Conference players who will lead Minutewomen.

Like GW, Richmond (1-2) has had two games postponed or canceled and heads into the conference season with a losing record. Richmond defeated Maryland for a win this season, which may indicate it is a stronger team than GW. Maryland defeated GW 2-0 on Sept 21.

Vogel said her team used September to improve and fine-tune the skills necessary to win.

“We are better now than we were in preseason, and we’re ready for October 5 for Xavier and Dayton,” Vogel said.

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