With help from conference foes, Colonials secure first A-10 berth in 11 years

Dayton took care of Saint Joseph’s, 140 miles north of the District. Over in Richmond, Va., Saint Louis shut out VCU.

With those results, the women’s soccer team was in control of their own fate heading into Sunday’s matchup: a win over Richmond, and the Colonials would make their first postseason appearance since 2002.

Responding to the high stakes, the Colonials came through with one of their best games of the season, shutting out the Spiders with a 2-0 victory off of two free-kick goals.

As the seventh-seed in the tournament, GW (7-5-5, 3-2-2) will face second-seed team La Salle (13-4-2, 5-2-1) Thursday at 11 a.m.

“This is the time to peak, this is the time to play well. We played phenomenal last Sunday, we played well today and got it done, and that’s what we want going into the tournament,” senior Jane Wallis said after the Senior Day win.

The first half was a tight battle between both teams, as each side fought back-and-forth for possession. The Richmond offense put quick pressure on senior goalkeeper Nicole Ulrick, with a scoring attempt in the first minute that Ulrick handled with ease.

The Spiders eventually grabbed the momentum, creating more opportunities as they controlled the ball in GW’s defensive third. But the Colonials defense stood firm and held them scoreless.

A Richmond foul just outside of their penalty box quickly changed the game in GW’s favor.

With both teams trading possession and control once again, sophomore Kristi Abbate found success in the midfield, tearing through the Richmond defenders and creating opportunities for her teammates.

“Kristi had a really good day, obviously, running at them,” head coach Sarah Barnes said after the game.

On one of Abbate’s cuts through the midfield, she was tripped up right outside of the box.

Sophomore Brooke Bean hit a shot off the ensuing free kick that bounced right off O’Brien and into the back of the net, putting GW in position to clinch its postseason berth.

“I’ve practiced all season on my free kick and it just happened,” Bean said. “I just kind of hit it and luckily it bounced around with the keeper and went in.”

The Colonials would take that 1-0 lead into the break – just 45 minutes away from the A-10 playoffs.

Wallis nearly doubled the margin to start the half, with a shot that O’Brien narrowly pushed over the bar, but the Colonials kept the pressure on, forcing 2 corners and 3 quality, but missed, scoring opportunities.

In the 68th minute, Richmond nearly got the goal they were searching for, when forward Violet Miller ripped a shot on goal from the top of the box. Ulrick was there again, though, to tip the ball over the bar and preserve the lead.

“I was mad I didn’t somehow catch it,” Ulrick said of her parry. “I didn’t want to give them a corner.”

Any hope Richmond had off of a come back was squashed minutes later when junior Elizabeth Casey found herself with a free kick from thirty yards out. She struck a long ball to the upper left corner of the net that edged past O’Brien and into the netting, effectively spurring GW into the postseason.

“We go over them [set pieces] before every game day, so we’ve had to focus a lot,” said Casey after the match. “We had to let it go and play soccer, play our game.”

Despite pushing up for the remainder of the match, the Spiders were unable to break through the GW defense, and the Colonials walked away with a historic 2-0 win and a ticket to this week’s A-10 Championships.

“We said to them, look, this is in your hands, you have the opportunity to finish this game off, but it’s gonna demand that you keep your foot on the pedal and I think they responded really well to it,” added Barnes.

With the victory, the Colonials will head down to Richmond, not to face the Spiders again, but to compete in the A-10 playoffs for the first time in over a decade.

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