Men’s soccer slipped against Saint Joseph’s in their conference home opener Saturday afternoon.
The Colonials (3-7-1, 1-2 A-10) stumbled to their sixth loss in the last seven games against the Hawks (4-7, 2-1 A-10) in a 2–0 defeat. GW struggled to create clear chances and failed to register a shot on target throughout the entire 90 minutes.
“We’re just disappointed,” head coach Craig Jones said. “To be honest, we didn’t show up, right? We got totally outplayed in every area. I’m not saying anything I’m not going to share with the guys. We just weren’t good enough today.”
Junior goalkeeper Justin Grady notched six saves for GW while junior midfielder Chris Hunt and junior midfielder James Fletcher found the back of the net to claim the victory for Saint Joseph’s.
The first several minutes of the game proved choppy as both sides tried to find their rhythms. But Saint Joseph’s nearly found the opening goal in the ninth minute as Omry Perel muscled past graduate student defender Joshua Yurasits on GW’s left hand side, but Grady managed to smother his shot and keep the Colonials out of an early hole.
The Colonials had a penalty appeal just moments later as graduate student forward Oscar Haynes Brown went down under pressure inside the box, but the referee waved play on.
A mistake from senior midfielder Grant Barrientos allowed Fletcher to burst through GW’s defense in the 13th minute, but Grady got just enough off a hand on the shot to prevent it from trickling over the line.
The Hawks kept up the offensive pressure, and a deep cross fell kindly for freshman forward Blake Driehuis just six yards from goal in the 16th minute, but again Grady was equal to the moment as he hit the ground just fast enough to prevent the ball from squeezing under him.
Despite the lack of shots, the Colonials’ best chance came in the 33rd minute when a low, driven cross from Yurasits took multiple deflections into the feet of Haynes-Brown, but his redirection from point-blank range could not find its way past sophomore goalkeeper Luis Ludosan.
The physicality of the Hawks caused problems for the Colonials, who could not find many avenues through their opponent’s defense.
“You don’t have to be the biggest guy, the strongest guy, but you have to have the fight when you step on the field,” Grady said. “It’s obviously tough when you go against the big guys, tall guys, but we knew what we were going up against. Can’t make any excuses, just got to come out.”
Saint Joseph’s recorded five shots to the Colonials’ two and Grady racked up four saves in total to keep the Colonials alive as both teams went into the halftime break level at 0–0. Grady said the team was “hanging around” but didn’t give enough in the half to “deserve” to be ahead by the sound of the half whistle.
The Hawks began the second half just like they finished the first as Fletcher’s pace finally paid dividends. A quick give and go play between Perel and Fletcher allowed the Australian native to carry the ball inside the box onto his right foot and rifle a low shot past Grady in the 46th minute.
Jones said he talked to the team during halftime about prioritizing the first 10 minutes of the half to get back into the game and find a sense of rhythm. Despite his words, the team conceded a goal within 56 seconds of kickoff.
“That’s absolutely bizarre to me,” Jones said. “So look, we’ve got no excuses, we didn’t play well. And you can set up every coaching situation formation, but if you can’t compete, it doesn’t matter.”
GW’s frustration began to reveal itself on the pitch and the first yellow card of the game was shown to freshman midfielder Sean Vaghedi, after taking down a Hawk’s player from behind at midfield.
Saint Joseph’s capitalized on the ensuing free kick and doubled their lead in the 69th minute. The visitors looped a free kick into the box and the ball was headed back across the face of goal. Junior midfielder Chris Hunt leapt into the air for a bicycle kick that glanced off the crossbar and into the net.
Grady said the team has to come together to pick each other up in moments of frustration and adversity.
“After the goal gets scored, or something goes wrong, you got to have guys that are in the group looking to lift their teammates up,” Grady said. “You know, ‘The game’s not over,’ ‘there’s still time left,’ things like that to kind of get you ready for the rest of the game.”
GW nearly clawed a goal back when sophomore defender Aaron Kronenberg had a free header at the back post in the 82nd minute, only to watch the ball fly over the crossbar.
“I don’t think we’re that far away from being a good team,” Jones said. “But one week, I’m making a mistake. The next week, it’s the other guys making a mistake and the week after that someone else. So it’s individual stuff and as a group collectively, we’ve given goals away which last spring season, we didn’t.
The Colonials will be back in action Wednesday, Oct. 6 with another A-10 bout against Dayton. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. at the Mount Vernon campus.