Women’s soccer traveled to Saint Louis in hopes of bringing back the Atlantic 10 Championship for the first time in program history.
But the host team proved to be too much for the Colonials, who snapped their two-game win streak and wound back to the District as the A-10 runner-ups, their highest finish in 22 years.
The squad topped Saint Joseph’s and Massachusetts in the quarterfinals and semifinals, respectively, on its way to its highest finish since 1997. The Colonials (14–3–4) fell to the Billikens (17–3–2) 3–1 in a rematch of their regular season finale.
“We only had three losses on the season, the very first game, and then the other two losses were for a title,” head coach Michelle Demko said after the loss to Saint Louis. “We lost our last game trying to win a regular season title, and then we lost our third game of the postseason trying to win a conference title. So I think that makes for a pretty successful year.”
The Billikens started the scoring, converting two penalty kicks into goals within two minutes. Ten minutes after the second score, Saint Louis struck again to take a 3–0 lead.
The Colonials remained scoreless for 83 minutes before redshirt sophomore forward Rachel Sorkenn netted her 11th goal of the year. She lofted the ball under the bar and above redshirt goalkeeper Mary Niehaus’ outstretched hand. Junior defender Allie Nornes picked up her second assist.
Demko said Sorkenn added another layer of scoring for the team this season and provided the squad with more options at the forward position.
“She’s really dangerous in and around the box,” Demko said. “She’s a hard worker, she’s competitive. So in terms of adding that mentality to players that already have those same qualities, she can really enhance our firing power up top.”
The team saw a marked improvement from last season’s 10–8–1 performance, losing five fewer games this season. After dropping a game against William and Mary Aug. 22 to start the year, the team rode nonstop momentum throughout the season, suffering just one loss over two months.
The Billikens handed the Colonials their second loss of the season in a tightly contested 2–1 game to end the regular season. But the squad earned its highest seeding in four years to enter the A-10 Championship ranked No. 2.
The Colonials outscored their opponents 43–25, and Sorkenn led the pack with 11 goals. The team spread the scoring wealth this season, with 10 Colonials netting at least one goal.
But against Saint Louis in the final, GW mustered seven shots and allowed the Billikens to take 24 shots.
Sophomore midfielder Sammy Neyman led the team with six assists on the season, followed by redshirt senior Sofia Pavon, sophomore defender Hannah Zaluski and Sorkenn with five apiece.
The squad boasted 17.2 shots per game and allowed its opponents just 10 shots per game throughout the year. The team shot on frame with a .548 clip and averages 9.89 shots on goal per game, ranking third among all Division I soccer programs. But in the final, the Colonials notched just three shots on goal, while Saint Louis took 11 shots on frame.
Pavon, Sorkenn and redshirt senior defender Megan McCormick earned spots on the A-10 Championship team.
Six Colonials also earned postseason accolades. Sorkenn, Zaluski, Pareja and sophomore defender Madi Coyne earned Second Team honors, while McCormick nabbed a First Team nod and redshirt freshman Tamaki Machi was named to the All Rookie Team.
Demko said each players’ strong relationships with one another and their love for the team allowed it to find success on the field. She added that the postseason awards were “outstanding” because the honors were voted on by A-10 coaches.
“They’re really invested in each other,” Demko said. “That type of growth is the reason why we found success on the field. It’s because we’re so connected.”
On the defensive side, redshirt freshman goalkeeper Tamaki Machi stopped 91 opportunities, denying 78.4 percent of all shots on goal by opponents this season. In the final against Saint Louis, Machi made eight saves with three goals.
Before the team played Massachusetts and Saint Louis, McCormick said the team was more comfortable and familiar with one another on the field compared to last season, which contributed to the success they’ve seen on the field.
“A big difference from last year is just overall team chemistry,” McCormick said. “I know a lot of people overlook how big of a piece that is to how well you play. I think that’s been super great this year.”
The Colonials defeated Saint Joseph’s 3–0 Nov. 2 in a quarterfinal matchup. Pareja and Pavon each netted a goal, and Zaluski notched both assists. Sorkenn also took a goal of her own to close out the game.
“We obviously have beat them before, but that doesn’t matter anymore,” Sorkenn said before the matchup. “We just have to go and play our hardest.”
The Colonials topped the Minutewomen 2–1 in the semifinal game Friday. Pavon and Sorkenn scored in their second straight postseason game to lift the team to the finals.
Demko said the team’s senior leadership, helmed by Pavon, McCormick, midfielder Olivia Di Cristofaro, midfielder and forward Annie Pierce and defender Deena Desilva, exuded “determination, commitment and respect” for their teammates. She added that the experienced core played a large role in the team’s playoff push.
“They led the way for us and everybody else had a chance to follow and walk that line they set the example of,” she said.
Belle Long contributed reporting.