After second-half struggles, women’s soccer expects improvement

Media Credit: Ethan Stoler | Contributing Photo Editor

Senior forward Brittany Cooper passes the ball around defenders during last Thursday's women's soccer game against Liberty.

Women’s soccer is having trouble finding the scoreboard after the halftime break in their first two games of the season. The Colonials were outscored by their opponents a combined five goals to none through both of the second halves.

In their home opener against Liberty Thursday and the season opener against Georgetown the previous Sunday, the Colonials were either tied or leading the game with 45 minutes left in the match.

Against the Hoyas, GW gave up four unanswered second-half goals. Last week, the Colonials allowed Liberty to score a game-tying goal with less than three minutes left in the contest.

“We haven’t been very good in the final piece, the final ball, the finish so we are going to have to improve the execution,” head coach Sarah Barnes said.

The Colonials have taken less shots and made less goals than last year’s squad at the same time in the season. Heading into last year’s third game, the Colonials had scored three goals, taken 34 shots and allowed only one goal scored against them.

Now heading into Thursday’s matchup against LSU, the Colonials have scored only one goal after taking 18 shots and allowing five goals against.

“I think the biggest concern for us is that we seem to start to rush ­– we turn the ball over a lot which is what we saw in the second half,” Barnes said. “It has become a little theme so that has got to improve.”

In the team’s game against LSU last season, GW brought its record to 3-0 after defeating the Tigers 3–1 behind two goals from senior forward Brittany Cooper. Cooper has taken six shots this season and is still scoreless.

This year’s lone goal comes courtesy of junior Sofia Pavon. Currently the midfielder has taken a team-high three shots on goal. Pavon said she wants to see her teammates keep up a high intensity throughout future games.

“I think just keeping our foot on the gas in general,” Pavon said. “We had moments that were great and then we had a spell that wasn’t great and that’s when (Liberty) scored their goal.”

After missing all of last season due to an injury, Pavon has focused on getting her rhythm back on the field and improving her athleticism, Barnes said.

“I think right now her fitness level slows her down a little bit and impacts her effectiveness,” she said. “My guess is that as her fitness improves she will execute at a higher percentage as we get through the season.”

Barnes said she has also been training her players in the off-season and early on in the season to both create opportunities and play through high-intensity scenarios.

“We are trying to create a more pressured environment and get them really comfortable with the idea of having somebody breathing down their neck,” Barnes said.

The offense has had to adapt without forward MacKenzie Cowley, who graduated the program in the spring. In her final season, Cowley scored 11 of the team’s 24 goals and found the back of the net in the each of the first six games.

With 12 freshmen added to the roster, more than half of the reserves are brand new to the program. As the newcomers get accustomed to college soccer, Barnes said they will get closer to their potential – adding important depth in all parts of the field.

“This is a good class, but they are freshmen,” Barnes said. “It is going to take a little time to be as impactful as I think they can be, but there is certainly a lot of talent there.”

Three freshmen have found themselves in the starting lineup, including defender Allie Nornes and midfielder Alexis Williams, both of whom started in the two games so far this season. Freshman midfielder Sara Messinger also started against Liberty and tallied one shot on goal in the game.

Once the team gets more time on the field and all the pieces fit together, Barnes said she sees the potential for a long post-season.

“This team certainly has the potential to compete for a conference championship, go to the NCAA tournament and make a run,” Barnes said. “I think it is going to take us some time to put the pieces together, but I think that has to be our goal at this point.”

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