Though a lack of risk-taking has doomed the Colonials multiple times this season, GW’s players have yet to adhere to head coach Craig Jones’ “you can’t win if you don’t shoot” advice.
After a tight 2-1 home loss to fellow Beltway team UMBC on Saturday, the Colonials (3-5) looked to redeem themselves with a non-conference victory Wednesday at the Mount Vernon Campus. But more than a few cases of offensive hesitation combined with one major lapse on the defensive side allowed the NJIT Highlanders to grab a 1-0 victory, marking the third consecutive loss for GW.
“You expect to win every game. You always want to win,” Jones said. “Losing the way we lost today was certainly disappointing.”
Time of possession was near even throughout the first half, and although both sides found shooting opportunities in the opening minutes, the Colonials and Highlanders settled into a groove shortly after, firmly clamping down on their security in front of the net.
Typical of their play so far this season, GW’s offense took just one shot over the first 45 minutes of play. NJIT, on the other hand, found more success moving into the Colonials’ zone, striking for goal seven times in the half and 15 on the day, compared to GW’s total of three. The Colonials’ lack of confidence in the box is a trend that Jones said was baffling to him, especially considering how much time his team works on situational shooting during practices.
“I think we’ve done everything short of bringing in a psychologist in here to get us over that block,” Jones said. “We’re the most unselfish team, and we just want to pass to someone else, I think. It’s strange.”
The shot discrepancy between teams in the first half perhaps foreshadowed what was to come in the second half. Though the two sides remained knotted at zero until the 83rd minute, a late breakdown for the Colonials’ defense led to a Highlander breakaway and score just seven minutes from the final whistle.
Senior goaltender Alejandro Almodovar, who tallied seven saves on the day, said that his team needs to start having more fun on the field in order to get back to their winning way.
“We’re here because we love soccer, and I think we’re losing it a little,” he said. “We need to find that love we had when we were 10 or 12 years old. Once we do, we’ll come back and start winning games again.”
Senior forward Seth Rudolph attributed the losing effort to a lack of energy, both from the players on the field and the supporting cast on the sidelines. He also noted that despite the closeness of the team, sometimes that sense of unity deteriorates at inopportune moments during games.
“I’m just very disappointed. Especially at the end of the game we just didn’t bring the energy to make it happen. That was all 11 of us and the guys on the bench,” Rudolph said. “We have lapses where we just don’t come together, and we have to figure that out. That starts now.”
First on Jones’ list of areas of improvement is the attack. NJIT shot five times as many times as the Colonials, a glaring statistic no matter the opponent. GW’s consistency, too, is something Jones will look to improve upon, so that crippling defensive breakdowns cease to occur in the future.
For now though, the coach needs some time to reflect on the loss.
“On days like this you have to go home and calm down a little bit before you address the guys. You have to look at the positive things,” Jones said. u