This post was written by Hatchet reporter Peter Hoegler.
Craig Jones has seen a lot of disappointment in his first three years as head coach for men’s soccer, but this year has been different; this year, his team has shocked the Atlantic 10.
“All year, people have been counting us out. I told the guys when we get that one chance, when it happens, we are going to make it count,” Jones said.
That chance came in the second overtime period in Saturday night’s final regular season showdown against A-10 heavyweight Saint Louis, when Garrett Heine got tackled in the box for a penalty kick. Heine then stepped up to the strike and did what he has done for the Colonials all season: buried the game winner.
With the win and Dayton’s loss, GW (10-7-0, 6-2-0 A-10) earned its first A-10 regular-season title since 2011 and third in program history. The Colonials will be the number one seed in next week’s A-10 Championship at George Mason, where they will see their first playoff action in four years against No. 8 seed VCU, but Jones said the team tried not to think about the big picture during the game.
“It was a tactical battle. Both teams had a lot to play for,” Jones said. “We have been just taking it one game at a time and this was our eighth step in A-10 play. When we don’t look ahead, everything falls into place.”
Senior goalkeeper Jack Lopez recorded five saves in his fifth shutout of the year. In 656 minutes of A-10 play, he has allowed just two goals and has a tiny goals-against average of 0.27 in league games. The Colonials as a team posted its third consecutive shutout and seventh of the season, its most clean sheets since 2011.
Though Saint Louis outshot the Colonials 8-4 throughout the game, neither side had great chances. In overtime, Heine got a fantastic through-ball from Alastair Berry and was wiped out by the Saint Louis keeper as he was shooting. Heine then converted the chance for his team-best ninth goal of the season and league-leading sixth game-winner.
“We are delighted,” Jones said. “When times were tough these past three years I kept my faith in the process. We have the belief we can win. It’s a great step forward for the program but we can still improve.”
The A-10 champions are now onto VCU. There’s no counting them out now.