Women’s soccer ends season with 2 wins, clinches home-field

A 2-0 win over Old Dominion on Thursday, coupled with the 3-0 victory over William and Mary on Saturday, earned the Rams home-field advantage for the Colonial Athletic Association tournament this week.

VCU faced an Old Dominion team trying to finish first in the conference as well on Thursday. The first half was played wide open by both teams. Defender Hedda Gardsjord set the tempo for the Rams, making attacking runs upfield at the end of the first half and the beginning of the second half.

“It was a very direct game,” co-head coach Denise Schilte-Brown said. “That caused the pace of the game to be sped up. When the pace slowed down, we knew that we were the better team.”

In the 49th minute, sophomore midfielder Leigh Anthony scored the Rams’ first goal, which ended up being the game winner. After taking plenty of cracks from directly in front of the ODU goal, Jen Parsons looped a pass across the field to Anthony, who rocketed the ball from eight yards out past ODU goalkeeper Stephanie Miller.

Parsons added the Rams’ second goal in the 66th minute by beating the ODU offside trap and splitting two Monarch defenders. She slipped the ball underneath the keeper for the 2-0 advantage. Goalkeeper Lauren Hardison made two saves in the shutout, which was VCU’s 10th straight at home.

Anthony, who played the frigid first half in short sleeves, put on a long-sleeve undershirt at halftime. “I was just freezing out there,” Anthony said. The sleeves helped.

“This is the game I wanted most of all this entire season,” Anthony said after the game. “And now I want Saturday’s game (against William and Mary) more than anything.”

Like ODU, William and Mary came to Richmond with a chance to win the CAA regular season title. Celebrating senior day, VCU honored Parsons, Kasey Sandvig, Katie MacDougall and Amy O’Toole before the game. Within the first five minutes of the game, head referee Mike Stutt seemed to lose control of a very physical game. Tribe forwards challenged Hardison in the goalkeeper’s box, knocking her down and almost out within the first few minutes of play.

VCU took an early 1-0 lead in the third minute of play. Parsons took a pass from Shelley Lyle at midfield and sprinted past the William and Mary defense. From about 25-yards out, Parsons blasted a shot that took one bounce and went in the right far corner of the goal. It was Parsons’ league-leading 15th goal of the season.

In the ninth minute of the game, the Tribe’s leading scorer Taline Tahmassian collided with Hardison in the box on a 50-50 ball. Referee Stutt pulled out a red card and ejected Tahmassian from the game. Hardison left the game as well, limping off the field with a swollen and bruised right knee. Emily Niman entered the game for the Rams and played the rest of the contest.

At the 20-minute mark, Lyle picked up her second yellow card of the game for slide-tackling a Tribe midfielder from behind. Stutt ejected her as well, leaving the teams with 10 players each.

The penalty didn’t phase the Rams.

Captain Jennifer Woodie picked up her first assist of the season on a beautifully served ball to midfielder substitute Jennifer Wilks in the 33rd minute. Woodie stood by herself from about 30 yards out when she lofted a pass into William and Mary’s box. Wilks moved into position and headed the ball into the near post of the goal, making the score 2-0.

The Rams concluded their scoring in the 42nd minute. Senior Katie MacDougall came off the bench, dribbled the ball down the far corner of the field and fired a cross into the Tribe box. Freshman midfielder Bridgit Cooley headed the ball into the back of the net and give the Rams a 3-0 lead.

Niman and the defense played tough and held on for VCU’s 11th straight shutout at home. The win clinched the championship, the bye, and home-field advantage.

The quarterfinals of the CAA tournament start Tuesday. VCU will face the winner of the JMU-GMU quarterfinal matchup.

The Rams lost to both teams in a horrendous road trip last weekend, but finished the season 9-0 at home.

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