Zach Joachim, Contributing Writer
The women’s soccer team split a pair of home conference matches this past week, defeating the University of Dayton 3-2 on Oct. 11, and falling to George Washington University 2-0 on Oct. 15.
With 12 combined wins consecutively between the Rams and GW, the Thursday night match created a tense atmosphere. The winner would claim sole possession of first place in the Atlantic 10 and an inside track to the top seed for the A-10 championships held in mid-November.
It was a chilly evening at Sports Backers stadium and George Washington controlled the pace of the match throughout the first half, scoring in the 32nd and 40th minutes off set pieces to build a commanding 2-0 lead going into halftime.
The Rams opened the second half with renewed energy. In the 48th minute, freshman Julia Suarez made a run down the near sideline and put a cross into the box that prompted a frantic clear from the GW defense.
The Colonials conceded most of the possession for the remainder of the half, choosing to sit back and protect the lead. Suarez and senior Kailyn Slade would keep the heat on, as a rip from the top of the box by Suarez in the 58th minute sailed just over the crossbar.
VCU’s last significant chance for a goal came in the 84th minute came with GW’s back line on its heels after a turnover. Suarez made a run down the far sideline and found Slade in the box, whose one-time effort curved barely wide of the post. The game ended, along with VCU’s five-game undefeated streak, in a 2-0 defeat.
After the match, head coach Lindsey Martin expressed disappointment in her team’s lack of energy, particularly during the first half.
“If we think that effort will get us points moving forward we are sorely mistaken,” Martin said. “Good teams will make you pay, and that’s exactly what GW did tonight.”
The Lady Rams earlier in the week, however, came out on fire against defending conference champion Dayton.
Seeking its fifth consecutive win, VCU jumped out to an early 2-0 lead. In the ninth minute, Slade dribbled through the Dayton back line before finding Suarez along the baseline. Suarez then lifted a cross into the box, while junior Tori Burress headed home into the far corner of the net for her first collegiate goal.
Less than three minutes later, senior Sharon Wojcik would double the lead by blasting a shot from the top of the box just past a diving goalkeeper.
Dayton answered in the 18th minute with yet another goal from the A-10 leading scorer Ashley Campbell. The Flyers then seized the momentum, enjoying a large majority of the possession for the remainder of the half. The VCU defense and senior keeper Emma Cruz was able to hold strong and the Rams took a 2-1 lead into halftime.
Dayton stayed on the offensive to begin the second half, limiting VCU to fleeting counter-opportunities.
Burress converted one of those quick chances in the 65th minute after some nifty passing from Slade and Wojcik to build a 3-1 cushion. Campbell again cut the lead in half for the Flyers in the 71st minute to keep the pressure on.
Dayton continued a relentless attack until the final whistle, outshooting the Rams 20-10, but Cruz and her backline were there with clutch saves and clearances. VCU prevailed to stay undefeated in conference play.
Despite the loss to GW, the Rams still boast an impressive 4-1 conference record and respectable 6-7-1 overall line.
Having concluded its out-of-conference schedule, Martin’s team now looks ahead to its pivotal five remaining conference matches: at La Salle University (Oct. 18th), at George Mason University (Oct. 22nd), home against The University of Massachusetts at Amherst (Oct. 25th), home against Saint Louis University (Oct. 29th), and at The University of Richmond (Nov. 1st).