Against NCAA leading scorer, women’s soccer sees what it’s missing

The question mark the women’s soccer team has tried to erase is its offense. But the uncertainty may stem from a simple truth: The Colonials don’t yet have a go-to goal scorer.

On Sunday, the team fell 3-1 to a Saint Francis team that boasts the NCAA’s active leading scorer, Tesa McKibben, who had her name on all three of the Flash’s goals.

That type of consistent contribution is something the Colonials have yet to find. Instead, they find their offense wherever they can get it.

“You got a lot of players who can play, so that’s great, because I think that’s going to create a really competitive environment,” head coach Sarah Barnes said after the Saint Francis game. “As far as a set lineup, I don’t think we have one yet. We’re still trying to figure out who’s going to be consistent day in and day out.”

GW is also still shaking off its offensive demons from last season, when the Colonials were shut out nine times and scored one or fewer goals in 13 of their 18 games.

This year, the Colonials have scored four goals through three games so far, good for a 1-2 record, but they’ve come from all different corners of the offense.

The first two were by freshman MacKenzie Cowley, who scored her first goal on a timely rebound against American, and her second off a perfectly executed cross in the first half against Georgetown.

The third came off the head of junior Nicole Belfonti, and the fourth by way of senior Jane Wallis.

Last year’s leading scorer, sophomore Kristi Abbate, shared an assist in the first game, but has yet to find the back of the net. Juniors Madison Davis and Elizabeth Casey both recorded assists against Georgetown, and then freshman Kate Elson, who scored the lone goal in GW’s final exhibition, connected for the assist in Sunday’s game.

Throughout the season, Barnes has kept the same starting lineup, but subs have switched into the game regularly to create better matchups and help ignite the offense. Her defense has held up – as it has for years – but as usual, the Colonials have difficulty scoring goals, which is why Barnes is still searching for that right combination on the pitch.

At the end of the Saint Francis game, with players shuffling in and out, GW found the right combination just before time expired.

“We were down three goals, and we’re still trying to score, and we do score with 50 seconds left. It’s a function of a team that’s going to play 90 minutes regardless of the score,” Barnes said.

GW has given a wider variety of players minutes on the pitch than their opponents have in each game, using eight, seven and eight subs respectively, compared to their opponents’ seven, six and five substitutions.

When Barnes plugs in a new player with 20 minutes remaining in the period, she said, she is generally looking for offense. Two of their goals have come in the final minute of a period and the other two in the 71st and 75th minutes of the game. With time ticking down in the Georgetown game, she plugged in three players to provide extra strikers to try to tie it up. They could not convert that time around, however.

She said in the last game that if a player of hers, like sophomore Kyla Ridley, performs well for 10 minutes, she will give her even more time. Right now for the team, it has been a matter of finding the hot hand, like Cowley through the first two games, but eventually a consistent point-scorer will likely need to arise to carry the offense.

Crowley expressed optimism that this year’s freshman class will bring in goals for the offense, but it will take more time to see if a promising start early on can blossom into more victories.

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