At halftime of her team’s season opener against Towson Monday, GW women’s soccer head coach Tanya Vogel knew she had to make some changes. Her team found itself in a scoreless tie after having spent the previous 45 minutes jockeying for scant, fruitless opportunities to score and clearing out opposing threats in their own box.
So she and her staff did just that, switching up the team’s plan of attack – namely shifting the shape of their 4-3-3 formation’s top third, for those interested in such details – and sent her squad out to implement them. The results? In two minutes, a goal by senior Brittany Eger; in another two minutes, another Eger goal; and 45 minutes later, a 2-1 victory in the books to start the year the way she had hoped.
“You saw the team change,” Vogel said of GW’s (1-0) play at the onset of the second half. “As they gained that confidence, as they gained that kind of swagger, I knew it was going to happen. It was just a matter of time.”
The initial breakthrough came from the head of Eger, who provided the final touch on a chain of three Colonials that included classmate Dara Rosen and junior Jillian Morgan. After Eger had a shot deflected out of bounds on GW’s first chance of the second half, Rosen booted her corner kick out of the shadows stretching across the field and toward the goal’s far post, where Morgan headed it back toward an unmarked Egen on the opposite side of the net for the game’s first goal.
“I was ready for it to come back,” Egen said. “That’s my job, to creep off the goal and pick up the trash.”
Just over two minutes later, sophomore Sierra Smidinger set up the second score by fending off a mugging Tiger defender and striking a well-placed cross toward Eger, who redirected it toward the goal and past the keeper to give the Colonials a two-tally edge.
With their sudden and relatively comfortable cushion, the Colonials remained in control for most of the next half-hour of play. A late threat emerged, however, when GW was whistled for an incidental handball amid a tangle of players inside their own penalty box, earning Towson a penalty kick inside of the game’s final 13 minutes. Tiger senior Daniela Rasanova took advantage, striking her opportune shot past a diving Lindsey Rowe to cut the Colonials’ lead to one.
“It was just a bad situation,” said Rowe, GW’s sophomore goalkeeper who registered the second most saves in the Atlantic 10 as a freshman last fall. “Nothing we could do about it.”
Their margin of error shrunken to one, the Colonials altered their strategy to milk the clock and preserve their lead as time ticked away toward the game’s conclusion. Each GW possession teetered on the brink of becoming a game of keep-away as they declined to aggressively push for further scoring opportunities, lest they leave themselves prone to unnecessary risks of counter-attack.
“You can’t be stupid at that point,” Vogel said. “You’ve got to be a little bit more cautious.”
Rowe said the team was well prepared for such circumstances, having run through countless scenarios in practice where one team was forced to preserve a slim lead against an urgent offense looking to knot the score. Even in a season as young as this, she said such preseason preparation made the situation’s realization a familiar one and allowed GW to function despite the pressure.
“There wasn’t any room for mistakes, so we were a little bit focused, but I don’t think we got nervous or freaked out or anything,” Rowe said.
After a dozen careful minutes, the Colonials had successfully preserved their lead and made the first mark of their season in the win column.
“We definitely wanted to make a statement,” Eger said. “I think we did that.”
GW continues their season Friday with a trip to Old Dominion. Game time is set for 7 p.m.