Thailon Wilson, Staff Writer
The Rams defeated the William & Mary Pride 1-0 to mark the black and gold’s first win of the season after zero wins, one tie and three losses.
The Rams entered the game in a 3-5-2 formation, meaning three defenders, five midfielders and two forwards up front. Right off the gate, VCU applied constant pressure to William & Mary with attacks against the Pride’s defense.
VCU women’s soccer head coach Lindsey Martin said she credits the players’ hard work over the summer, which allowed them to continue running throughout the entire match.
“The kids are fit. They spend all summer coming in and making sure they’re ready,” Martin said in a postgame interview. “I think that we’re constantly checking to make sure they seem like they can sustain and go the distance.”
The constant running and pressure from offense kept the William & Mary Pride constantly on their toes on the defensive side. The Pride could hardly get the ball away from their side of the field for the entire first half.
The Pride had their only on-target shot of the game at 27-minute mark of the first half by graduate student midfielder Addie Puskar.
The Rams continued the pressure until VCU junior defender Natalia Santangelo scored off an assist from freshman midfielder Kendyl Sarver at the 35-minute mark.
“That was my first collegiate goal ever, so that was pretty exciting,” Santangelo said. “After we scored, I thought, now it’s time to keep a clean sheet.”
After a 10-second countdown by the announcer, the first half ended with the Rams holding a 1-0 lead heading into halftime.
The Pride started to advance their offense more at the start of the second half, but VCU graduate student Amber DiOrio blocked the shots from getting through.
DiOrio calls this defensive press “lockdown,” and it was constantly on display tonight versus the Pride.
“Our whole backline calls it lockdown defense because we don’t want them to score on us,” DiOrio said.
The pressure of VCU’s offense worked well in the second half to maintain possession because as the game continued, the Pride’s defenders moved forward, which allowed for easier counterattacks.
The Pride went into ultra-attacking mode at the end of the game and tried to score the game-tying goal.
The defense dispossessed the Pride’s advanced offense before the ball could even get towards the goal area.
DiOrio said she believes their mentality was the key to preventing the Pride’s plays and success in not getting goals.
“If we lose the ball ever, we want to win it back in five seconds. As soon as we lose it, just get the ball right back to us,” DiOrio said. “That’s our mentality.”
Coach Martin said she was proud of finally pushing over the hedge to secure the Rams’ first win of the season after many competitive games to start the season.
“We’ve had good performances this season and we have come short of the full result of a win. So for us to be able to get that win tonight. I think the team deserves it,” Martin said.
Santangelo said she was also excited and proud of the first win of the season but is ready to go out and compete for the next one.
“We’re excited that we won this one. We’ll process it and then on to the next one and it is time to get into the groove and to make our mark on the A-10 [Atlantic 10],” Santangelo said.
The Rams will host the University of Pittsburgh Panthers on Thursday, Sept. 8 at 7 p.m. at the Sports Backers Stadium. For ticket information, visit vcuathletics.com. The game will be televised on ESPN+.