Women’s soccer sailed into Atlantic 10 play with its best record since 2015.
The Colonials (9–1–2, 5–0–0, A-10) secured seven straight wins on the season and recorded one loss, giving them their best start to the season since 2003. Players said the team’s strong chemistry, its strength in the middle of the field and efficiency off of corner kicks has elevated the team above its competition.
“It’s been a lot of blood, sweat and tears,” head coach Michelle Demko said. “Our level of sophistication in our possession and our ability to be mindful, we’re trying to possess the ball to really penetrate and get forward into dangerous positions. I think that’s been really fun to see.”
The Colonials took their seventh straight victory to maintain their undefeated status in the A-10 Conference against Richmond Sunday. Overall, the team has remained undefeated following its first and only loss against William and Mary Aug. 22.
The squad shares the No. 1 spot in the A-10 with Saint Louis, which has also secured a 5–0–0 record this season. When the Colonials opened their A-10 slate 5–0 in 2015, the squad won all 10 conference matchups and nabbed the regular season crown.
The Colonials’ offense has averaged nearly 20 shots per game and boasts a .573 shot on goal percentage. GW has dwarfed its opponents by more than 100 shots, launching 220 shots this season compared to its opponents’ total of 114.
The team’s shots per game and shot on goal percentage are steady improvements from the last two seasons. The Colonials notched a .562 shot on goal percentage and averaged 15.4 shots per game in 2018. In 2017, the squad ended the season with a shot on goal percentage of .536 and averaged 10.3 shots per game.
Redshirt sophomore forward Rachel Sorkenn leads the team in points with four goals and five assists. Sophomore midfielder Maria Pareja follows closely behind, netting five goals and two assists. Demko said the squad spends time every day watching film of either themselves or their opponents, allowing them to analyze foe play and their own performance off the pitch.
“They come, they want to learn, they’re asking questions, we’re dissecting film,” Demko said. “We’re putting a little bit more on their plate, but they’re really hungry for it.”
Demko added that the team has built a strong support system for one another and has maintained a high level of confidence and energy.
“It’s that trust, that accountability to show up on a daily basis and just leave their tanks empty at the end of the training session or game and build upon whatever our last step was,” Demko said.
On the defensive end, redshirt freshman goalkeeper Tamaki Machi has amassed 47 saves with a save percentage of .770. The Colonials are ranked third in goals allowed, letting 14 balls slip into the net.
The squad boasts a 5–1–0 away record. Demko said the team has found success on the road by focusing on simulating game-like scenarios in practice.
“It just goes back to the confidence that they have in themselves, the work that they’ve put in,” Demko said. “We try to put them in certain positions or situations in training, so they’ll be familiar wherever they’re playing in a game.”
Sorkenn said the team rallied after losing to William and Mary Aug. 22 and used the game as motivation to improve for the rest of the season.
“We knew this was going to be a good season and with a loss like that, I don’t think anyone was prepared for that,” Sorkenn said. “We all knew we had to step up together and we’re obviously doing that.”
She added that players have emphasized practicing corner kicks and winning set piece opportunities in games. Sorkenn said the Colonials utilize the height advantages of redshirt senior Megan McCormick and sophomore defender Madi Coyne – who stand 5 feet, 11 inches and 6 feet tall, respectively – to capitalize on crosses into the box. The defending duo have three goals this season.
In addition to set pieces, Pareja said taking advantage of the stretch of the pitch has helped the team score.
“It’s honestly playing into the flanks, we have some really fast girls on our team,” Pareja said. “So what we try to focus on is just keeping the ball and having a lot of possession and then playing into our wide channels and then getting crosses off.”
She added that the team needs to continue finishing its chances in the box and maintain a cohesive defensive unit between the backline, midfield and forwards.
“We’re just super excited to play the next game every single week,” Pareja said. “Obviously, with it comes a lot of responsibility, I guess a little bit of intimidation just knowing that we need to keep that record up. But I think, more than anything, it’s excitement.”
The Colonials head to Delaware State Thursday. Kickoff is slated for 5 p.m.
Belle Long and Bryant Li contributed reporting.