Head coach George Lidster bent over in disbelief late in the second half of Saturday’s match against Bryant University.
His team had just ceded a penalty in the goal box in the final 10 minutes of the game, opening up an opportunity for the opposing Bulldogs to tie the score. Lidster knew his offense would need to step it up for the Colonials (2-2-1) to emerge victorious.
“The defense has been doing well all season but we can’t rely on them,” Lidster said. “We have to put goals on the board to take pressure off them.”
Lidster knew fresh legs would provide the extra push the Colonials needed to revamp their offensive efforts, subbing in players who pressed hard for the go-ahead goal. When GW won the ball back in the midfield, sophomore substitute Bailey Hinners launched a cross pass that found junior Seth Rudolph in stride.
After hustling to beat out the nearest defender for the ball, Rudolph lined up on the left side of the box in a one-on-one situation with the goalkeeper.
Rudolph kept his composure, chipping the shot over the keeper’s head into the right corner of the net, propelling the Colonials to a 3-2 lead with one minute and 36 seconds left to play. GW was able to close out the final minute of the match with strong defense, propelling the men’s soccer team to its second straight win. The roots of the victory, Rudolph said, were in GW’s ability to avoid being rattled.
“Coach has always talked to me about composure,” Rudolph said. “I just took a second, waited, took my time and placed it.”
It was an exciting second after play before halftime was scoreless for both teams. As play began in the first, GW attempted to get out to an early lead against the Bulldogs, with sophomore Zach Abaie testing the Bryant goalkeeper with a shot on goal in the third minute, saved by the Bryant keeper. The Colonials again failed to convert in the 30th minute, when Rudolph blasted a ball just over the crossbar that would have broken the stalemate.
Bryant looked poised to take the lead with six minutes remaining in the first half, when its corner kick found the back of the net, but the shot was ultimately called back due to a foul. In the ensuing minute, GW mounted an attack off a cross into the box, and, in a twist of fate, the Colonials also saw their goal called back, penalized for being offsides after striking the ball in. Reflecting on the missed opportunity, Lidster was frank about his disagreement with the official’s call.
“I didn’t see [the offside],” Lidster said. “It was a shock to me. I thought the players were arriving late in the box. You get some calls and you don’t get others.”
Lidster and his team were determined to shake off the penalty. As the second half began, GW continued to attack, and senior Yoni Berhanu blasted a shot towards the upper right corner of the goal in the 55th minute before being narrowly denied by the Bryant goalkeeper.
Bryant went on the offensive 10 minutes later, marching down the right side of the field on a counterattack as junior Alejandro Almodovar deflected a shot over the crossbar. The play set up a corner kick for the Bulldogs, and they headed in the ball to earn a 1-0 lead. The goal was indicative of the six-to-three corner kick advantage Bryant posted over the Colonials, an area of play Lidster said his team wasn’t as strong on as he would have liked.
“We weren’t marking as tightly,” Lidster said. “We were giving them space to play, and the goal came from that.”
The Colonials pulled even in the ensuing two minutes, as Abaie drilled a kick into the right corner of the goal from 30 yards out for his first goal of the season. It took only 93 seconds for GW to tally on another goal, as Berhanu crossed the ball from the left side of the box to the upper right corner, scoring for the second time this season.
GW was up by one, but then the penalty call allowed Bryant to tie the score. Despite a narrow ten-to-nine shot advantage, the Colonials rebounded from the Bulldogs’ penalty kick score, substituting in fresh players and setting up Rudolph’s dramatic goal. The win was a team-wide effort, Almodovar said. As GW’s driving force in net, he underlined the importance of strong play across its roster.
“It feels great to be a leader on the field. Hopefully we can take it to the A-10,” Almodovar said. “Our defense has been very solid, we have great guys coming in off the bench, if one guy gets hurt we have another guy coming in, everyone’s intensity is really high. Even if some guys come up with some injuries we have another guy ready to take that position and keep the defense strong.”
The Colonials will look to build momentum off their victory, carrying their intensity to the Sept. 23 match at Jacksonville, with play scheduled to start at 7 p.m.