The single point from the Colonials (2-1-1) came from freshman forward Alex Nicholson after GW failed to penetrate the defensive wall of the Mountaineers (2-2). Nicholson netted his first career goal after stealing the ball from the Mountaineers’ backline and slotting it in with a right kick, but the Mountaineers came out on top via two headers that graduate student forward Ruben Kiers netted in through the net’s right side.
The Colonials’ shooting percentage dipped below .200 for the first time this season, averaging .067 overall with a .400 average for shots on goal. GW applied pressure leading a 15-11 offensive shootout with nine corners compared to the Mountaineers’ five but failed to capitalize on the shot opportunities.
Junior midfielder Tim Neumann said the Colonials need to continue working on set plays to ensure they build their shots from the corners of the field or box instead of falling into the wall of the defense.
“This was obviously the first loss of the season, so right now it hurts a lot,” Neumann said in a post-game interview. “But I think the takeaway is that we fought as a team, and even though we had a lot of injuries, and we’re down on people with COVID, we did our best and we really acted as a unit and could have been a different result in the end with a lot of chances.”
GW kicked off the match with a corner kick within the first 11 minutes from junior midfielder Carter Humm who shot from the right but missed the box. The Colonials attacked the middle from the left side of the box but failed to penetrate the Mountaineers’ defense.
The Mountaineers saw their first chance to score eight minutes into the match when a corner shot from junior midfielder Jesus Salazar crossed the top of the box and a header by Kiers rolled past the outstretched hands of GW senior goalkeeper Justin Grady.
The Colonials suffered two early exits from graduate student attacker Oscar Haynes Brown and senior midfielder Elias Norris, who sustained an apparent nose injury after he was tackled twice by the Mountaineers.
Injuries sidelined four of GW’s starters – senior forward Tom Cooklin, senior defense Jared DeMott, freshman defense Keni Winger and freshman defense Connor Braun – at the start of the season. The depleted starting lineup has forced Head Coach Craig Jones to switch players around the field to accommodate the holes in the GW defense early in the season.
The Mountaineers collected the first two yellow cards in the match after a couple of hard tackles against the GW team, giving the Colonials a pair of penalties from senior midfielder Tiago Carvalho.
“This is not something that we’re new to, I think we’ve played with like one to two subs multiple times over the past few years,” graduate student midfielder Alhaji Turay said. “It’s awesome that we have the next-man-up mentality, so whoever’s next up, that’s all we have, we have a deep squad of players who have a lot of quality, a lot of grit, have a lot of intensity to them and are very cutthroat.”
In the final nine minutes of the first half, senior midfielder Tiago Carvalho found another chance for GW to score from the top of the zone, but he couldn’t sneak it by junior goalkeeper Ethan Russell. The rest of the first half remained scoreless as both teams struggled to rally their offense on the field.
The second half of the game began with one GW substitution and eight substitutions from the Mountaineers, boosting their energy on the field as they came out attacking at the top of the box. Within six minutes, they netted their second goal of the afternoon.
The Colonials responded with a corner kick that helped Nicholson net the first goal for GW after stealing the ball from the opponent’s backline and slotting it into the pipes. But it was too little too late as time ran out before the Colonials could tie the game with a final goal.
“It was definitely frustrating, we had so many chances, one on one on the goalie in the box where we could have just tied the game or maybe went on to lead,” Turay said. “So definitely with every play that we missed, it got more and more frustrating or we kept on going, and really, we really kept on creating chances, so I think he had a really good bounce-back effect. And I’m glad that we didn’t give up until like the final whistle.”
On the defensive end, Grady logged a season-high four saves on 11 shots on goal, holding on to a tight margin for the GW team until time expired.
The Colonials prepare for their first away game against Navy Friday, where they look to shake off the loss. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.