Putting the ball in the net has been a struggle for the Colonials in several of their away matches this season, but there was no shortage of scoring this weekend as the team took its home field.
GW (4-4-2) opened Atlantic-10 conference play at home, hosting St. Joseph’s and Temple. Powered by a strong defensive effort, the Colonials did not give up a goal in either match, placing them atop the conference standings, tied with Fordham in first place through the first weekend of league action.
“You’ve got to win your home games if you’re going to go to the [A-10] championship. Only six teams go,” head coach George Lidster said. “This is a great start, and we now have to get something from next weekend.”
As play opened Friday afternoon against St. Joseph’s, the Colonials got off to an early start offensively, taking three corner kicks in the first 90 seconds of the game.
Fewer than six minutes later, a cross into the goal box deflected off a Hawks defender to find junior Mattia Melillo, who gave the Colonials the lead on a sliding shot that snuck by the opposing keeper. The goal was the first of the season for Melillo.
“That got us off to a good start,” Melillo said. “To get a goal that early at home really lifted our confidence and put a bit of pressure on the other team.”
Coming out of halftime, the Colonials found their groove offensively. Two minutes into the second half, GW added its second goal of the game on a cross from freshman Joe Holleran to junior Seth Rudolph, who headed the ball toward a waiting Melillo, drilling the ball in for his second goal. The Colonials did not let up on the pressure, outshooting the Hawks 10-2 in the second half. Senior Yoni Berhanu added his fifth goal of the season in the 64th minute, after a penalty was called on St. Joseph’s following a corner kick.
GW was able to close out the Hawks without letting up a goal, posting a season-best four goals en route to a 4-0 victory.
“Our coaches talked to us before the game about a willingness to get forward,” Berhanu said. “A lot of times we would sit back because we didn’t want to get scored on, but we wouldn’t be creating chances. We can’t just have one person running past four people.”
The Colonials hoped to carry their offensive momentum into their second match of the weekend against Temple on Sunday, but were stifled by the Owls’ defense at the start.
GW was challenged from the outset of play by Xavier Sunday afternoon. Junior goalkeeper Alejandro Almodovar posted three saves in the first half for the Colonials, and the teams went into the break in a deadlocked match. Starting with a 4-4-2 formation in the first half, Lidster felt it necessary to switch the formation to a more aggressive setup, the 4-3-3, with a midfielder moving up to attack.
“We decided to change the tactics at halftime,” Lidster said. “We more or less mirrored them with a 4-3-3. We had confidence in our guys and it paid off. We controlled the second half.”
Less than 20 minutes into the second half, the new approach yielded a goal for the Colonials, propelling them to a 1-0 lead. Junior Zach Abaie put the game out of reach with his second goal of the season, coming in the final two minutes of the match, as he curled the ball into the net from the right side of the box. As the goal went in, the GW bench erupted in celebration and the Colonials held on to win 2-0.
The Colonials travel to Ohio next weekend, facing off against Dayton on Oct. 14 at 7 p.m. and Xavier Oct. 16 at 1 p.m.