Women’s soccer begins their quest for a conference championship Saturday afternoon, playing at Duquesne in the first round of the Atlantic 10 tournament.
The Colonials enter the tournament as the fifth seed after finishing with a conference record of 5-2-3, just behind the Dukes at 6-3-1.
GW played Duquesne to a scoreless draw in two overtime periods during its last regular season game on Senior Day Sunday afternoon, with both teams jostling for the better postseason position. The draw earned the Dukes the fourth seed as well as a crucial quarterfinal home game.
Head coach Sarah Barnes said playing Duquesne twice in less than a week makes the preparation for Saturday’s game easier.
“Every time we do a scout it is based on what other teams have done against them and we play a little bit differently than a lot of other teams in the league,” she said. “So this is good for us.”
During the Colonials’ last game against Duquesne, they struggled to contain their opponent and were unable to build out of the back.
“We got a little bit stretched at times,” Barnes said. “They were able to find their midfielders in between our lines and that caused us some trouble.”
Although GW heads on the road this weekend, the team finished the regular season with a 6-2-1 record away from home, including road victories over Dayton and Richmond in the past two weeks.
“Of course you would rather play at home and you’d rather have them in their own beds,” Barnes said. “It’s an opportunity for us to get the team away and probably be in a much quieter environment in a hotel than they would be in a dorm. So in some ways that’s not bad.”
In order to continue their season, the Colonials may have to find alternate ways of getting on the score sheet. They have managed to score just one goal in their last four games of the season after only getting shut out twice during their first 13 games.
Much of GW’s offensive clout comes from their attacking players, as junior midfielder Sofia Pavon leads the squad with eight goals, while senior forward Brittany Cooper and freshman winger Alexis Williams hold four apiece. The trio accounted for 16 of GW’s 21 goals this season.
After graduating former program standouts including MacKenzie Cowley, Kate Elson and Brooke Bean, the team has had to integrate younger talent into the lineup and speed up the learning curve for the underclassmen. For the most part, they have exceeded expectations.
Williams has been successful as a two-way player while first-year substitutes like midfielders Natalie Silberman and Kelly Amador, and forward Tuhina Dasgupta have all played crucial minutes in conference matchups.
While relying heavily on contributions from newcomers, the Colonials look to their upperclassmen for leadership as the team enters the post season. Cooper and redshirt senior goalkeeper Miranda Horn are among the most experienced players on the team, but GW has also drawn on the communication and leadership skills of junior captains Megan McCormick and Mia Barreda, as well as junior defender Dani Frese, all in their second years as starters for the squad.
“They have just been there before and they can do a good job of settling nerves and settling anxiety,” Barnes said. “But they have real urgency because they are coming to the end. They want to make sure that they go out on a really high note.”
GW’s No. 5 seed comes after a 0-2-1 start to the year that included a 4-0 loss to Georgetown in the season opener. The Colonials turned around their momentum and finished the year with eight shutouts in their final 10 games.
“We are a really young team and we had some issues early on,” Barnes said. “It is front to back, our forwards have improved defensively, our back line has improved defensively and I think Miranda is playing her best soccer right now.”
If the Colonials defeat the Dukes, they will square off against the winner of La Salle and Dayton in the semifinals Nov. 3. The Colonials blanked Dayton 1-0 on Oct. 15, but have not played the top-seeded Explorers.