After five games on the road, a challenging series of play away from the comforts and the mental advantage of playing on home turf, the Colonials returned to the Mount Vernon field Saturday.
But returning back to buff and blue ground wasn’t enough for a victory, as GW ultimately fell in a close 2-1 loss to the UMBC Retrievers, one that head coach Craig Jones said had its roots in his team not consistently presenting its best effort on the turf.
“We knew we were up against a good program and a good team,” head coach Craig Jones said. “It was a tough game for us. I just thought that we probably played well in spells. We just didn’t consistently keep the ball like we wanted to.”
The Colonials started out strong, competing with the Retrievers for possession. About eight minutes into play, junior Tyler Ranalli stole the ball from a UMBC player and passed it to senior Zach Abaie, who was to the right of the net. Abaie crossed the ball to senior Seth Rudolph, who immediately placed the ball in the lower left corner of the net, scoring the first goal of the game. Jones said that the goal, a highlight reel-worthy series of plays, was probably the team’s best so far this season.
Rudolph’s goal, his third of the season, exemplified the focus the Colonials had put on shooting after a loss to Bryant the previous Sunday.
“We worked on flowing forward a lot this whole week, as well as shooting and just taking shots from almost everywhere,” Rudolph said. “On our goal, that was probably some of our best movement that we’ve had all year. During the first half, we were flowing very well. We were getting shots off. We were just really taking it to them.”
The Colonials could not maintain the lead for long, though. UMBC responded rapidly with two goals within five minutes of one another. Before 20 minutes of play had elapsed, the score stood at 2-1, where it would remain for the rest of the game.
With six shots in the first half of play, GW resorted to longer passes down the field in the second half, resulting in just one shot on goal. In their previous match-up against Bryant, the Colonials also had a total of seven shots.
“Again, it was something that we worked on in the week: being more offensive, getting more shots on goal, and I thought we did that in the first half. We played some good stuff. In the second half, we played again in spells, and one shot on goal. It’s going to be tough to win games when you’re doing that,” Jones said.
Although the team had focused on offense in the days leading up to the match against UMBC, the defense performed well Saturday. Redshirt freshman goalkeeper Jean-Pierre van der Merwe had a total of 11 saves. As a whole, GW’s defense denied the Retrievers of several opportunities. Rudolph, however, said the Colonials had not anticipated their opponent’s quickness, a skill that translated into fouls. Overall, the Colonials committed 15 fouls throughout the game, to UMBC’s 13.
As the season progresses, it is evident the team’s on-field chemistry has grown. Rudolph said that as the team has grown closer, it has been playing better. And while the Colonials may not have scored as many goals as they would have liked, Rudolph said he was pleased with their performance.
“It was a tough game. They’re a good team, and they played well,” he said. “Overall it was a good game. We played some of our best soccer that we’ve played all year. It was just tough to lose that game.”
The Colonials will host the NJIT Highlanders Wednesday.