Men’s soccer fell in its final game of the year to Massachusetts Wednesday at Mount Vernon field.
The Minutemen (7–8–2, 3–5 A-10), the defending Atlantic 10 champions, came into the match needing a win to qualify for the postseason and came away with a 3–1 victory over the Colonials (5–9–3, 1–5–2 A-10).
Senior defender Alexy Boehm and junior midfielder Max Holdsworth both exited the game due to injury in the opening minutes, putting GW on its back foot.
“They’re a physical, aggressive team and we started flat,” head coach Craig Jones said. “And to lose two starters in the first 10 minutes due to injury unsettled us a little bit.”
Graduate student forward Haukur Hilmarsson scored the single goal for GW, while Massachusetts tallied three goals with the help of senior defender Clement Benhaddouche, who notched two assists.
On the defensive end, senior goalkeeper Thor Arne Höfs made six saves in the losing effort and his performance moved him into fourth place in career saves by a Colonials goalkeeper with 264 to his name.
Much of the first half was marred by long balls and giveaways by both teams in the midfield during a physical opening period.
“Both teams played long ball so the ball was in the air a lot of the times,” freshman defender Marcelo Lage said. “We didn’t really implement our style on the game.”
Massachusetts finally found a breakthrough with the first quality shot of the game in the 29th minute. Senior defender Brandon Merklin’s deflected cross found junior forward Yosuke Hanya inside GW’s penalty area and he blasted a shot off of the crossbar and into the net.
The visitors secured another good opportunity with eight minutes remaining in the first half. Senior forward Dylan Lightbourn headed away a Massachusetts corner kick, but it fell at the feet of Benhaddouche. His low drive skipped inches wide of Höfs’ far post.
The Minutemen had two more chances late in the first half, both on counterattacks. Höfs first denied senior forward Deandre Brown after a GW free kick, and then sophomore defender Joshua Yurasits halted the Minutemen when they had a five-on-two opportunity following a GW corner kick.
The Colonials struggled to connect passes in the final third, constantly losing possession as they tried to move the ball forward. Their only shot on goal of the first half was a tame header from Lightbourn off of junior midfielder Colin Anderson’s long throw in.
The second half was a different story, as the teams traded blows in a frenetic opening 15 minutes that saw both squads register shots and corner kicks.
The Minutemen extended their lead in the 59th minute when a free kick ricocheted in GW’s penalty area. Freshman defender Lucas Marshall cleared the ball off the goal line initially, but Brown collected it and managed to finish into the back of the net.
One minute later, Benhaddouche lifted in a cross from the left side. Höfs came to claim it but was unable to make the save and left sophomore midfielder Davis Smith with an open net to head into, effectively ending GW’s hopes of a comeback.
The Colonials received a consolation goal in the 66th minute when Hilmarsson whipped a free kick beyond sophomore goalkeeper Marvyn Dorchin to claw one back for the home side.
“For me I thought our best spell, even though we were down 3–1, was the last 25 minutes,” Jones said. “At the time, we had six first-year players out there.”
Sophomore midfielders Matthew Brummett and Peirce Williams both nearly scored late in the second half, but the Colonials failed to finish on either one.
The Colonials end their season with five wins overall, including just two in conference play – their worst records since 2010.
“It’s not the way we wanted to end it but that’s how it goes sometimes in the A-10,” Hofs said. “If you don’t find the intensity in some games and you’re unlucky, you end up losing games in the end.”