Colonials hard to halt at home field

GW knows the meaning of home field advantage.

The Colonials (5-6-2) rebounded from dropping two games last weekend with a dominating performance Saturday against the Richmond Spiders.

“When you’re at home, you never want to disappoint the fans,” sophomore Alex Sandland said. “We all come out as a team wanting to win and keep clean sheets.”

As the first half began, the Colonials took control of the game offensively, posting three shots in the first 10 minutes of play. GW saw an early attempt on a corner kick turned away, when junior Zach Abaie’s cross into the box found leaping sophomore Tyler Ranalli, but his header was saved on the line by the Richmond keeper in the 12th minute. A similar scenario played out 20 minutes later, as junior Jamie LaFleur’s header attempt off a corner was also denied by the Spiders defense.

The Colonials owned the first half shot-advantage 9-2, but were unable to find the back of the net on any of their early chances, heading into halftime in a deadlocked game. Reflecting on the first half, head coach George Lidster was pleased with GW’s ball movement, but “wasn’t happy” with his team’s failure to convert its scoring opportunities. He said his team needs to improve “that killer instinct in front of goal.”

“I thought we created some great chances to score,” Lidster said. “[On] two or three of them, we should have scored.”

With the second half underway, the Colonials defense was tested six minutes after the break, when the Spiders looked poised to score off of a deflection. As junior goalkeeper Brendan Lafferty moved to clear the ball, a Richmond player rushed in and deflected the clearance, causing the ball to bounce backward toward the right side of the goal box. Junior defender Daniel Ripperger-Suhler made a sliding stop to keep the ball from being crossed into the goal, knocking it out of bounds for the corner kick and thwarting a potential goal.

GW had a chance to take the lead in the 55th minute, when a free kick was lobbed into the goal box and drilled into the back of the net, only to be called off due to a handball. The foul call did not keep the Colonials offense quiet for long, responding less than three minutes later, when junior Seth Rudolph headed in his sixth goal of the season to give GW the lead. Senior Yoni Berhanu’s foot cross from the side of the box found Rudolph for the score, and the crowd erupted.

“None of the defenders were marking me,” Rudolph said. “I floated away and made eye-contact with [Berhanu] and he put it right where it needed to be. I just had to touch it in.”

Rudolph’s goal tied him with Berhanu for the team lead at six, making the two the top scoring duo in the A-10. This statistic, however, is unimportant to Rudolph.

“Honestly, the only number I care about is wins,” Rudolph said. “It’s nice scoring goals, but I would much rather have a win over a goal.”

The defense continued to remain unwavering against the Spiders’ attacks, with sophomore defender Alex Sandland slide tackling the ball from a Richmond player just outside the goal box with 24 minutes left in the half. GW put the game out of reach in the 81st minute, as Rudolph passed to wide open junior Mattia Melillo, who scored his third goal at home in as many matches.

The Colonials defense posted its third consecutive shutout at home, despite a backline depleted by injuries to senior Brice Carr and freshman Matthew Scott. On the offensive side of the field, GW has outscored opponents 11-2 at home this season. After the Colonials dropped from first place to 10th place in the A-10 standings after their losses a weekend ago, Lidster recognized the importance of the win for his team’s chances of making it to the conference championship.

“For them, this was their A-10 championship, because if you don’t win today, you’re not going,” Lidster said. “That’s how important it was, and they responded quite well.”

The Colonials will look to improve in the standings next weekend as they take on Massachusetts Oct. 28 in Amherst, Mass., and then head to Kingston, R.I. to take on Rhode Island Oct. 30.

“This weekend we are going up to the Northeast, and let’s hope that [the team] can show a little bit of grit and win ugly instead of winning nice,” Lidster said of the upcoming road trip. “We just need to get in a good week of practice and be able to win ugly, that’s the key.”

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