For the sixth consecutive season and the 13th time in program history, women’s soccer is heading to the Atlantic 10 Championship quarterfinals.
The Colonials’ 6–4–0 A-10 record earned them the seventh seed in the tournament, slating them to kick off postseason play against No. 2 VCU Saturday on the road.
The last time the two teams faced off, the Colonials came out on top of a 1–0 overtime win in 2016.
This is the first postseason appearance for GW under first-year head coach Michelle Demko. Heading into the quarterfinal, Demko said the team will need to pressure its opponents into its quick style of play early to jump ahead of a VCU team that has lost only one conference game and is 7–1 on its own turf this season.
“No matter what game it is, or who the opponent is, imposing our self on our opponent, that’s going to be the key for us,” Demko said. “Not sitting back and adjusting to anyone else but playing our game and coming out using our strengths and making a team have to account for us and our style.”
GW and VCU have created a similar amount of goal-scoring opportunities, with the Rams taking 177 shots and GW taking 176 throughout conference play. But VCU leads the A-10 with 29 goals scored in A-10 play, compared to GW’s 16.
In recent games the Colonials have struggled to find the back of the net in regulation, forcing two of their last three games into extra minutes. The Colonials played four overtime matches this season and, excluding a tie against Maryland, all of them have resulted in a win.
Senior goalkeeper Anna Tapen said the high-pressure overtime games provide good experience for a team heading into the tournament.
“In the postseason, since the teams are all so good, there’s a high likelihood that there’s going to be close overtime games,” Tapen said. “We’ve helped build our confidence in those situations over the season because we know that we can execute during them, since we’ve done it multiple times.”
Tapen said the team’s entire approach this season has been more offensive-focused under Demko. GW outshot its opponents an average of 15.4 shots per game to 11.5, good for 159 shots on goal in total. Last season, the Colonials averaged 10.3 shots per game and 105 shots on goal in total.
“This team is confident enough to take shots,” senior forward Sofia Pavon said. “It puts pressure on opponents and makes them think that they have to mark us from 30 yards away. That creates a lot of space for our teammates.”
Pavon has a team-leading seven goals and 62 shots on the season. Aside from Pavon, the Colonials’ offense has been powered by a slew of underclassmen, including sophomore midfielder Natalie Silberman and freshman midfielder Alexandra Filipkowski. Three of GW’s top-five goal scorers are either freshmen or sophomores.
With 19 underclassmen on the roster, Demko said she wants the younger players to remain consistent in their play and to focus on taking care of the ball despite the heightened pressure.
“The great thing about postseason play is that everybody now has the record of 0–0, so anything can happen,” Demko said. “In terms of watching the team grow throughout the season, our goal has always been playing our best soccer toward the end.”
Even with a season on the line, Pavon said the Colonials are more excited than nervous to play and the one-game-at-a-time mentality the team has adopted this season has helped make the players feel more relaxed and focused for Saturday.
“I think we learned in our years at GW that any team can win the A-10 title,” Tapen said. “We’re not too concerned that they’re No. 2 and we’re No. 7. Anything can change in the playoffs.”
GW heads to Richmond to face VCU in the A-10 quarterfinals on Saturday at 7 p.m.