This post was written by Hatchet staff writer Josh Solomon
In a downpour at the Mount Vernon Campus last month, the women’s soccer team pulled off arguably its biggest upset in the past decade against La Salle, who had not lost in 19 straight conference games.
The win was GW’s second straight conference victory, and an early sign that this may be a historic season for the Colonials – who had not been to the A-10 tournament since 2002.
A month later, the Colonials are back in the tournament as the No. 7 seed. And against a familiar foe: La Salle, the No. 2 seed. This time around, despite the regular season win, GW is once again the underdog. But their recent play has given the Colonials the confidence to think otherwise.
“We don’t feel like a bottom-seed team. We’ve beaten teams that are at the top and we’ve lost to teams that are at the top when we should’ve won,” senior goalkeeper Nicole Ulrick said. “I think now we’re just really happy and hungry to have a second chance, just getting ready to get a little revenge from earlier games.”
GW’s road to the postseason, ultimately, would not have happened had it not been for the help from other teams.
After that La Salle win, the Colonials returned to mediocre play, dropping three of their next five games and pulling out disappointing ties in the two others. One of those games included a 1-0 loss to new A-10 foe George Mason, on a night when GW had only one shot, and zero on goal.
A decisive 5-0 non-conference win over Delaware State, and help coming from around the league, set GW up for a senior day matchup that could send them to the playoffs.
A Saint Joseph’s loss and a VCU loss would guarantee the Colonials “a win and you’re in” situation. By halftime with a 1-0 lead against Richmond, Barnes knew that her team just had to hold on to make it.
An aggressive second-half and an additional goal for comfort sealed the deal for the Colonials. Players ran on to the field to celebrate, as the seniors especially, realized they had finally accomplished a goal that had set out to achieve for four years now.
“It [playoff potential] was taken away and kind of given back to us,” Ulrick said. “It’s not a miracle by any means, but it’s really exciting that we got a second chance.”
With the rematch against La Salle awaiting them, a first round win still seems plausible. Though GW’s defeat of the Explorers was unprecedented, it was not their only loss this season. The Explorers lost, on the road, to Saint Bonaventure, 2-1 – an example of La Salle’s weakness on the road.
But the Explorers do boast an impressive group of players finding their way on the A-10 First Team: forward Kelsey Haycook, who took two of La Salle’s 18 shots against GW; midfielder Maryam Huseini, who had one shot on goal in that game; defender Courtney Niemiec, who had four shots, two on goal; and goalkeeper Jessica Wiggins, who had one save and one decisive goal allowed.
GW will counter with their senior defense, led by Ulrick and Melanie Keer who both were selected for All-Academic honors. They are the first players to earn the honor for GW since 2009.
Meanwhile, sophomore forward Abbate earned All-Conference Second Team honors, despite just earning one point on the season. Her dribbling and passing skills created added defensive pressure on opponents all season, freeing up her teammates to do the scoring.
“The teams that are there are beatable. And La Salle beat Dayton, we beat La Salle and Dayton is the top in the conference so this tournament is completely up for grabs and I think everybody is ready. We’re a young and energetic team; no one is done, no one’s bodies are done yet,” Wallis said.
It will take a strong effort on the final ball and another top defensive showing, for GW to unseat the two-time defending champion Explorers on Thursday at 11:00 a.m.