The GW men’s soccer team barely made it into last weekend’s Atlantic 10 Tournament, but once they got there, they made history.
The bottom-seeded Colonials knocked off No. 2 seed Duquesne on senior Matt Osborne’s header with just 1:27 remaining to capture their first A-10 title in school history Sunday in Richmond, Va. With the 3-2 win, the Colonials advance to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1989.
“This is a huge deal for the GW soccer program,” senior midfielder Michael Goldman said. “GW men’s soccer hasn’t made the NCAA tournament for 14 years. Our team deserves this and so do our families and friends who came down to support us today and throughout the season.”
It took a GW victory in the final game of the regular season for the Colonials to secure the fourth and final spot in the tournament, but the team did not play like the last seed once they got to Richmond. Before Sunday’s win over the Dukes, GW (13-8, 8-4 A-10) knocked off No. 1 seed and defending A-10 champion Massachusetts 4-3, handing the Minutemen their first conference loss all season.
“There was a lot of hype on the Internet and in magazines saying that there were only three teams that could win this tournament,” Osborne said. “We were not included in that mix, and we wanted to prove our doubters wrong.”
With Sunday’s game tied 2-2 and less than 1:30 remaining in regulation, Osborne proved GW’s doubters wrong, scoring on a diving header off a pass from junior midfielder Fabio Andrade to seal GW’s improbable championship run.
Players said the road ahead is a tough one but they like their chances in the NCAA Tournament. GW will find out its first-round opponent when the tournament brackets are announced Monday afternoon.
“We might be underdogs, but we have confidence in our game plan and we’re going to play well as a team, just like we have been recently,” Goldman said.
GW Head Coach George Lidster said he is proud of his team and it will be prepared for the Big Dance.
“We came in to the A-10 Tournament as the number four seed out of four teams and we’ll be going into the NCAA’s as one of the lowest seeds,” Lidster said. “But we’ll do our best so who knows what could happen.”
He added, “A betting man wouldn’t put money on us, but I would.”
Sun. Nov. 17
GW 3, Duquesne 2
In similar fashion to Friday’s game, the Colonials fell behind early Sunday when Duquesne forward David Gingrich put the ball past GW junior goalkeeper Eric Lund only three minutes into the match.
The Colonials fought back later in the half, tying the score at one apiece in the 23rd minute. Goldman took a pass from senior forward and Tournament Most Valuable Player Arnar Johannsson on the left wing and floated a shot just beyond the outstretched hands of Dukes goalkeeper Terry McNelis.
“The wet and muddy conditions were awful today,” Lidster said. “The goal in the third minute was a setback, but we fought hard. The guys showed great resolve today.”
The two teams battled hard for the remainder of the first half and well into the second. GW took a 2-1 lead with 31:56 remaining in the game, when Johannsson scored his second goal of the match, beating the Duquesne goalkeeper off a cross from Osborne.
The Colonials’ second upset of the weekend was nearly thwarted when Duquesne (13-3-5, 7-1-3 A-10) tied the score 2-2 on a controversial play in the 84th minute. A Duquesne player’s shot appeared to be saved by a GW defender, but the line judge ruled that the player was inside the goal.
“That goal was very controversial. The linesman gave Duquesne the goal although our players insisted the whole ball did not cross the goal line,” Lidster said.
But the Colonials remained poised after the questionable goal, setting up Osborne’s goal in the final moments of the game.
“It’s a historic victory,” Lidster said. “All of our hard work in the past few years is starting to pay off.”
Friday, Nov. 15
GW 4, Massachusetts 3
The Colonials advanced to the A-10 Tournament final by knocking off Massachusetts (12-6-2, 8-1-2 A-10) in an overtime thriller Friday evening. Junior forward Arnar Johannsson recorded a hat trick, including the game-winning goal in the last second of overtime as the Colonials sneaked past the top-seeded Minutemen 4-3.
“This was an incredible victory, “This was an incredible victory, the best I’ve had at GW,” Goldman said after the game. “It was a complete team effort. UMass is a very tough team, and we dealt with them very well.”
The Colonials did not get off to a good start in the contest, falling behind 1-0 on an early goal by Massachusetts’ A-10 Offensive Player of the Year Jeff Deren. GW finally caught a break at the 31:13 mark when Johannsson tied the score 1-1 on a penalty kick.
Massachusetts turned up the pressure late in the first half, but the Colonials held their ground, taking a 2-1 lead at the 44:09 mark. Freshman Steve Brown put the ball in the box for Johannsson, who quickly one-timed his second goal of the game.
The Minutemen tied the score at two in the 60th minute when Deren beat Lund for his second goal of the game. The Colonials broke the stalemate once again when Osborne hammered a shot into the net off assists from Goldman and junior Jason Popik, giving GW a 3-2 lead with six and a half minutes remaining.
The Colonials’ upset hopes were put in jeopardy when the Minutemen sent a ball into the GW box with 28 seconds remaining in the game, landing in a mass of players from both teams and apparently hitting the arm of a GW player. A handball was called and Deren converted the ensuing penalty kick, tying the score 3-3 and sending the game into overtime.
The two teams battled throughout the 10-minute overtime period, but the game was finally decided in the last second. Junior midfielder Jeremy Catlin fed the ball in the box to Osborne, who quickly volleyed it toward the goal. Johannsson then headed in the game-winner with just one second remaining in overtime.
“Arnar is one of the best finishers I’ve ever been around,” Goldman said. “Arnar and the entire team, we’re on a huge high right now.”