At first glance, one might think the GW women’s soccer team had an excellent season last year, as the Colonials finished 11-6-2. However, they were only able to compile a mediocre 5-5-1 record in league play.
As a result, GW was shut out of the Atlantic 10 Tournament and its season came to a premature end. If the Colonials want to make a run at a league title and an NCAA Tournament bid, it needs to succeed during the A-10 season this fall.
“Honestly, we’ve set our sights really high,” head coach Tanya Vogel said. “We’re looking to play very well in September and get better and better, so we’re prepared for October, which is when we have our Atlantic 10 conference play. We’re looking to get a top seed in the conference tournament, and win it, with an ultimate goal of playing in the NCAA Championship.”
Senior Kelly Lawten, the team captain, said she believes the Colonials’ talent will trump the loss of eight seniors from last year’s squad. “I hope we come together as a team,” she said.
In order to do so, GW will have to get help from its young players. In addition to eight freshmen, the Colonials have a flock of juniors who have yet to see much time on the field in their careers so far. For example, Audrey Ehrhorn, a junior midfielder, could see more time this year at midfield after playing in 14 games last season.
“We’ve got two big classes: a large junior class with ten people and a freshmen class of eight,” Vogel said. “That balance is excellent, however a lot of those juniors have not played a lot, so we are technically still pretty young on the field and we’re looking for players to mature as quickly as possible.”
The freshmen are young and inexperienced, but Lawten said she is impressed with the newcomers’ abilities.
“This team is very talented and very special compared to the last four years that I’ve been here,” she said.
The strength of this team lies in the Lawten-led defense. Last season, the Colonials allowed a miniscule 0.89 goals per game. The key contributors in the defensive unit are back, led by senior defender Lindsay Bruno, a second-team All A-10 player last year, and Lawten.
The defensive unit, which held opponents to seven shutouts last season, is bolstered by a strong group of goaltenders. Junior Anna Handzlik, also a second-team all-conference player, was tops in the A-10 last season with 6.43 saves per game.
Fellow junior Kelly Paolucci will be a fine backup. She recorded two shutouts last year and could see significant time between the pipes.
Offense, however, could be an area of concern. The team will try to fill the void left by 2002 A-10 Offensive Player of the Year Kim Warner, who graduated after the fall 2003 semester. Last year, she tied for the league lead with 13 goals and compiled 27 total points.
Warner’s departure is also tough for the Colonials to handle because she was such a clutch player. Of her 41 career goals, 15 were game-winners.
Although replacing Warner will be tough this season, GW could have the talent to make up for it.
Sophomore midfielder Sarah Sample was the team’s second highest point-scorer behind Warner last season (11 points) and was a member of the A-10 All-Rookie Team. Junior forward Ashley Squires (10 points last season) and co-captain Tara Quinn will also be a scoring threat this season.
Vogel said that with this arsenal, the Colonials can make a serious run at a league title. However, the team might need a while to come together.
“I think this team is extremely talented, extremely deep,” Vogel said. “And it’s just a matter of being somewhat patient in the early weeks as we develop to become a very strong team.”
The Colonials opened their season with a 4-0 loss to Virginia Commonwealth University. They will look to get back on track this week when they take on Quinnipiac University Friday at noon at the Hoya Classic Tournament at Georgetown.