Entering the weekend, GW had yet to win an A-10 game on the road – and the Colonials needed a win to ensure they’d be in contention for the league tournament.
After failing to score in their last three away matches, the Colonials’ offense finally found its form on the road. GW scored five goals over two matches en route to a weekend sweep of conference foes Massachusetts and Rhode Island. The Colonials (7-6-2) improved to 5-2-0 in A-10 play, earning six points and moving up to second place in the conference standings. Ten of the league’s 14 teams remain in contention for one of six A-10 Championship bids heading into the final weekend of the regular season.
“The goals came from good defending from us,” head coach George Lidster said. “We counter-attacked and scored some very good goals. It was the defending that set it up, and we played a bit more efficiently and didn’t take risks at the back.”
GW opened the weekend against Massachusetts Friday, where junior Seth Rudolph got the Colonials off to an early start with a goal in the 24th minute. Taking a free kick for GW, sophomore Alex Sandland found Rudolph in the goal box, who then buried the ball into the back of the net for his seventh goal and fourth game-winner of the season.
GW’s offense continued to apply pressure in the second half, when junior Zach Abaie set up teammates for goals in consecutive minutes. In the 59th minute, Abaie’s cross from the right side of the field found junior Mattia Melillo in the center of the box, connecting for Melillo’s fourth goal of the season. A minute later, Abaie assisted senior Yoni Berhanu on a pass for Berhanu’s seventh goal of the season, and GW held on to win 3-0, earning its first road victory of the season on a non-neutral field.
While the three away goals were a season high for the Colonials, the defense posted its second consecutive shutout with junior Brendan Lafferty in goal. Lafferty posted three saves, and the defense limited the Minutemen to only four shots on target, with freshman Matthew Scott making his first start in seven matches after being sidelined due to injury. Lidster said Scott’s return was a crucial addition to a roster depleted by other injuries.
“Having [Scott] back was a relief,” Lidster said. “It was massive for us, because [senior] Brice Carr didn’t come on the trip due to injury, [senior] Jake Davis didn’t come on the trip due to injury and [junior] Jamie LaFleur wasn’t fit for Friday’s game.”
The Colonials were able to carry their momentum into their match against Rhode Island Sunday, scoring only nine minutes into the match. Abaie found senior Mike Burke on a free kick, and Burke was able to break away from a defender, heading the goal into the back of the net for his first score of the season. Abaie continued to pressure the Rams offensively, tallying his fourth assist of the weekend on yet another cross into the goal box. This time Abaie’s pass found Rudolph in the box, whose header snuck past the Rhode Island defense.
“[Abaie’s] a good passer of the ball, and his two [assists] today were from set plays,” Lidster said. “[Assistant] Coach Jones has been working on set plays all week, and we got two goals today [from set plays].”
The Rams attempted to rally in the second half, scoring in the 57th minute and forcing Lafferty to make his fourth save of the day with only two minutes left to play. GW’s defense kept Rhode Island from scoring again, leading the Colonials to 2-1 victory.
“We’ve worked hard in practice on trying to be more efficient and intense in our play,” Lidster said. “Earlier in the season we lacked that intensity and maybe just for a few seconds in a game, and that’s all it takes to let a goal in. There were a lot of games we could have won, but that lack of intensity and concentration cost us a goal.”
The Colonials will finish off the regular season at home, hosting St. Bonaventure Nov. 4 and Duquesne Nov. 6. GW is undefeated on the Mount Vernon Field this season, and Lidster credited student support as a big reason for the team’s success at home.
“It’s going to be very important to have a big crowd,” Lidster said. “The players enjoy playing at home and representing George Washington University, and it’s great to see the students out there. They can be our 12th man this weekend.”