Women’s soccer entered its Atlantic 10 slate with just one loss against nonconference competition.
The Colonials (5–1–2, 1–0 A-10) stepped into A-10 play riding a two-game win streak after downing Bucknell and UMBC on Sept. 15 and 19, respectively. Head coach Michelle Demko and players said their nonconference schedule gave them extra chances to bolster their finish at the net and sharpen their defense for conference play.
“Everything is preparing you for conference,” redshirt senior defender Megan McCormick said. “The more you play together, the more you learn what people on your team are like and the better you’re going to do. Conference is crunch time and it’s coming up.”
Through seven nonconference games, the Colonials have amassed 17 goals and 150 shots, 85 of which were on frame. The Colonials rank No. 1 in the A-10 in shots on goal and in shots on goal per game with 10.63.
Sophomore midfielder Maria Pareja leads the charge, netting five goals this season on a team-leading 15 shots on goal. Redshirt sophomore forward Rachel Sorkenn tabbed a team-leading four assists.
Redshirt freshman goalkeeper Tamaki Machi has accumulated 32 saves. She transferred into the program last January and has started every game between the pipes for the Colonials.
The team takes an average of nearly 19 shots per game and holds a .567 shot on goal percentage, ranking second behind VCU’s nearly 22 shots per game. McCormick said the squad needs to practice firing more balls on net to increase its shot on goal percentage.
“We have very talented people on the team,” McCormick said. “It’s no secret to anyone and I think we don’t take it to our advantage. We have a couple of open feet and we would rather pass it off. We’re soccer players, we just have to take shots and see what happens.”
McCormick added that the team has focused on communication among players to fortify the defense and prevent runs in between the defenders, not just on the counterattack.
The squad added four transfers this season, including Sorkenn and Machi, redshirt sophomore forward Sammy Neyman and midfielder Anyssa Ibrahim. Neyman notched two assists on the year, while Ibrahim netted her first goal in a GW uniform Thursday against UMBC.
Sorkenn said she wanted to up her level of play and become a team leader after transferring into the program from Miami. In addition to leading the team in assists, Sorkenn tops the squad in shots (20) and is tied for third with nine shots on goal in her seven starts.
“Coming from playing at such a high level at Miami, I knew I had to step up here and I want to lead this program and make them better,” Sorkenn said.
Sorkenn added that the team should improve its transition to defense and change the points of attack to catch opponents off guard.
“We always talk about the small details, like giving a ball up and then turning and them getting a shot off – that’s not acceptable,” Sorkenn said. “Just getting the small details and following the game plan. We definitely have worked on switching the field to catch them off guard, and that’s been successful.”
The squad tabbed a 4–3–1 record heading into conference play last year and finished the season 10–8–1 with six wins and four losses against conference foes. The squad dropped its A-10 tournament quarterfinal matchup to VCU 3–2 to close out the season.
In its first conference matchup of the season Sunday, the squad toppled La Salle 3–1. Junior defender Allie Nornes, freshman midfielder Isabelle Eskay and Pareja found the back of the net. The squad pelted seven of its 17 shots on net.
Demko said the Colonials’ nonconference experience will prepare the team for the high level of physicality present in the A-10 and produce better results.
“Bucknell was a physical team,” Demko said. “William and Mary, also incredibly physical. Having to battle against some of the elements that we’re going to see in conference, I think it’s always good if we can get some of that under our belt in the nonconference games.”
The squad knotted two draws against Maryland and Towson Sept. 8 and Sept. 12, respectively. Both matches went into double overtime, which Demko said forced the team to “dig deep” and adapt to changing game plans.
“Sometimes we had to adjust our formation, which isn’t something that we normally do, so just in terms of preparing us that way,” Demko said.
The Colonials are outshooting their opponents 150 to 76 but have only scored six more goals on the season. Demko said the team sometimes lets its opponents score without earning the goal, an area of improvement for the squad.
“On any given day, any team can win,” Demko said. “It’s definitely going to be something where nobody can overlook you or their opponents.”
The Colonials return to action at home against Fordham Thursday at 3 p.m.
Belle Long contributed reporting.