With strong start, women’s soccer readies for conference play

Media Credit: Francis Rivera | Senior Staff Photographer

Women's soccer enters conference play after one of the strongest non-conference starts in recent history.

After posting one of the best season starts in program history, women’s soccer has the second-best record in the Atlantic 10 at 7-2 and is a worthy contender entering conference play.

Following a 2013 campaign plagued by five draws and a lackluster 3-3-2 record at home, GW has already matched last year’s win total and remains undefeated on home turf (4-0-0).

Offensively, GW is tied for the conference lead in goals scored per game (2.00) with Richmond and Saint Louis.

On the defensive end, behind redshirt freshman goalkeeper Miranda Horn, the Colonials have allowed just five goals through nine games, leading the conference. GW is tied for the conference lead in goals-against average (0.55), ranking 24th nationally. The team is also tied for the league lead in shutouts with five.

GW enters conference play with an RPI of 94, trailing only Rhode Island (8-1-1), ranked 40th, and La Salle, ranked 58th, as the lone A-10 teams in the RPI top 100.

For GW to continue its successful run, the midfield will need to maintain possession and keep the ball moving forward with simple and smart passing. Despite a strong defense, the team becomes especially vulnerable when balls are misplayed in the midfield.

Offensively, sophomore forward MacKenzie Cowley has scored a team-best five times this year. Junior Nicole Belfonti ranks second on the team with three goals, while junior midfielder Kristi Abbate has netted two goals and tallied a team-high two assists on the season.

Starting conference play, the Colonials are in a position to be able to prove themselves.

GW’s conference season starts off with two road games against defending A-10 Champion La Salle and fourth-place Fordham (6-4-0) on Friday and Sunday.

Fortunately for GW, other tough competition against teams like Saint Louis (5-5-0) and Richmond (6-5-0) will be played on the home field.

Here is a look at which teams should be GW’s toughest competition in conference play this season:

LaSalle (4-4-2)
Though the Colonials staged a remarkable 1-0 upset of LaSalle at home last season, the Explorers got the best of GW with a 2-0 shutout win in the first round of the A-10 Championships, effectively ending GW’s season.

LaSalle comes off a 2-3 overtime loss at home to Florida Gulf Coast, but offers threats in the form of two goal-scoring weapons: senior forward Kelsey Haycook, who has scored six goals and earned an A-10 Player of the Week nod this season, and sophomore midfielder Jessika Kagan, who has scored five goals this season. LaSalle goalkeepers boast a conference-high 67 saves this season, with senior Jessica Wiggins leading the conference with 6.0 saves per game.

Media Credit: Hatchet File Photo by Jordan McDonald | Hatchet Photographer
Sophomore MacKenzie Cowley drives the ball down the field earlier this season. Cowley leads the Colonials offense, with a team-high five goals.

Richmond (6-5-0)
The Spiders have a record of scoring but neutralizing their scoring by conceding goals. Richmond leads the A-10 in shots per game (16.82), points per game (6.64), goals per game (2.00) and assists per game (2.64). But the Spiders also have a conference-worst goals-against average of 2.26.

Junior midfielder Ashley Riefner has netted an impressive six goals along with six assists this season, second only to redshirt freshman and teammate Meaghan Carrigan, who has amounted a league-leading eight goals on the year. Carrigan earned A-10 Rookie of the Week honors last week after scoring three goals in three games.

Rhode Island (8-1-1)
Entering conference play with the highest RPI of any conference team, the Rams just may be the team to beat this season, yet Rhode Island as a whole doesn’t necessarily dominate the statsheet.

The Rams rank in the middle of the pack in almost every offensive category, but have made an impact on the defensive end. Rhode Island ranks second to GW in goals-against-average at .97 and are tied for goals allowed at 10.

Saint Louis (5-5-0)
Averaging two goals per game, the Billikens have been highly effective in dismantling opposing defenders thus far on the pitch.

Saint Louis’ combined 20 goals on the year have come from eight different players. Sophomore forward Kirsten Clemens leads the team with five goals.

Saint Louis typically improves defensively in the second half while maintaining consistent offense. But even then, the Billikens have allowed 16 goals this season compared to GW, which has allowed just five.

The Colonials will close the regular season Nov. 2 at Saint Louis.

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