Women’s soccer newcomers aim to raise squad to new regular season heights

Media Credit: File Photo by Grace Hromin

The 11 newcomers consist of six freshmen and five transfers who joined 18 returning players.

With only three matches under their wing, newcomers to women’s soccer have already left an imprint on the Colonials as they look to improve offensive play and contend for the team’s first conference title in seven years.

The team’s influx of 11 newcomers outnumbers all of GW’s sports team this season, consisting of six freshmen and five transfers. The women’s team looks to build upon the previous season’s flat performance when the Colonials amassed only three wins in the regular season due to an overall decrease in offensive and defensive play that led to 12 lost matches.

GW’s recent additions will join 18 returning players, including graduate student midfielder Sammy Neyman, sophomore goalkeeper Ainsley Lumpe, graduate student defender Cammie Dopke and junior forward Lauren Prentice.

“When we talk about our newcomers, I have to talk about the returners because they really are the ones that are responsible for the current culture,” Head Coach Michelle Demko said in Thursday’s post-game interview after tying Towson. “Anybody new coming onto the team, they receive them. They really make everybody feel welcomed, and I think that’s really important.”

The team is undefeated so far, winning against William & Mary and tying against UMBC and Towson.

Leading the team’s new athletes is freshman left-back defender Avril Silva, a native of Lorton, Virginia, who is one of three freshman who has played every minute of the season so far. She’s showcased her speed this year, flying up and down the left side, whipping crosses in and smoothly transitioning to defense throughout the first few games.

Silva played for Braddock Road Youth Club and Elite Clubs National League with the Virginia Development Academy, a competitive youth soccer organization. During her time at South County High School, she broke records in the 1600m and 5000m on the track and was named to the 2021 and 2022 All-District Teams.

“Coming in and being a part of the team was really my goal, just to meld with the team and talk to the upperclassmen about what my role can be within the team, and everyone has been super welcoming,” she said.

Freshman goalkeeper Grace Crowe has found her role between the goalposts, leading the team’s goalkeepers in playing time with 180 minutes on the field. In her first two games with the Colonials, she defended against eight shots on goal and notched four saves while allowing a sole goal to UMBC.

During Crowe’s high school career, she was named MVP of her varsity soccer team at the Hun School of Princeton in the 2020 season.

Graduate student central defender Aza Keohan, another newcomer who has also played every minute of the season, is a transfer from Princeton University who played 27 games and started 16 during her four years there.

Keohan was nominated for 2017 Massachusetts Gatorade Player of the Year in her senior year of high school at Acton-Boxborough Regional High School and ranked as the 74th player in her recruiting class by Top Drawer Soccer. She was also invited to the 2015 U16 US Women’s National Team Camp.

Redshirt sophomore defensive midfielder Caitlin Cunningham joins the Colonials as a transfer from Marquette, where she appeared in 11 matches over two years and notched one assist in her 171 minutes played. The Arlington, Virginia native has showcased her ball-handling and distribution as she has helped drive the match to the opposing team’s zone while playing 204 of 270 possible minutes for the Colonials.

“Credit to the coaches and the team for helping me adjust and fit into a role here,” Cunningham said. “I was coming from somewhere where I didn’t really have a role, so that’s nice.”

Freshmen forwards Isabel Kelly and Jessica Robbert and freshman midfielder Aoi Kataoka have also contributed right out of the gate, playing 17, 79 and 161 minutes, respectively. Both Kelly and Robbert attempted one shot in the first game of the season, a 1-1 tie against UMBC.

Redshirt sophomore goalkeeper and Pepperdine transfer Tia Harrison started the first match of the season, playing 45 minutes before suffering an unknown injury. She saw no action during her freshman year at Pepperdine but was named to the WCC Commissioner’s Honor Roll and was a Pepperdine scholar-athlete.

Harrison played with the ASC San Diego team in 2019 where she was recognized on several occasions by Top Drawer Soccer for her play in the U.S. Soccer Development Academy. She also played for the Albion SC where she started for all 90 minutes and made the 2017 ECNL national quarterfinals as a player for the San Diego Surf.

The women’s team will hit the road Wednesday against American, where they hope to notch the second win of their regular season, with first kick set for 4 p.m.

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