Women’s soccer looking to continue hot start in A-10 game | Sports WRGW

By Liam O’Murchu

Women’s soccer is off to a strong start, with three wins and three draws ahead of conference play Thursday. It’s the Colonials’ best start since 2016, when they started 6-0 before finishing 11-7-3 and losing in the Atlantic Championship Game 10.

Despite welcoming 11 newcomers, the Colonials were tough to break down defensively, playing well as a unit. The team conceded just two goals in six matches and went on a 417-minute streak without conceding a goal.

Defense was something the team struggled with last season, especially early in their schedule. In eight non-conference games to open the year, the Colonials conceded 21 goals. That equates to 2.6 goals per game, as this year’s team mustered a mark of 0.3 goals conceded per game going into the conference portion of their schedule.

Much of that defensive prowess can be attributed to continuity on the baseline. The center back duo of graduate students Cammie Dopke and Aza Keohan have played 504 of a possible 540 minutes together so far. Right-back Margaret Rabbit missed just 45 minutes, and most impressively, first-year left-back Avril Silva played all of the final 17 minutes of a 5-0 win over St. Peter’s.

Between the pipes there was less continuity, but everyone who saw the pitch impressed. Freshman Grace Crowe and second year Ainsley Lumpe have a time split, with each player having logged 270 minutes so far. Crowe has five saves and is one of four DI goalkeepers yet to concede a goal this season. Meanwhile, Lumpe made six saves and conceded one goal, on a penalty against Howard.

Redshirt sophomore midfielder Caitlin Cunningham also deserves a mention on the defensive front. The Arlington, Va. native and transfer Marquette showed her ability to cover ground and earn tackles in 209 minutes of action in four games, despite not wearing a uniform in the the team’s last two games.

Offensively, grad student forward Rachel Sorkenn was the star of the show for the Colonials. Sorkenn, who missed all of last season through injury, scored five goals and registered one assist. With her goal against Howard on Sunday, Sorkenn moved into a tie for 11th on GW Women’s Football’s all-time goalscoring list with 18 goals.

Midfielders Isabelle Eskay and Sammy Neyman will also be looking to make an impact in attack. Eskay, a senior, will look to replace her booming shot and physical strength. Neyman, a graduate student, will be an asset in creating chances and advancing the ball with her strong passing ability.

Junior midfielder Lauren Prentice and second-year midfielder Alicia Window will play a bigger role this season. With five starts this year, Prentice surpassed his career start count this season alone. The shrewd winger isn’t afraid to take on defenders and has been rewarded with one goal and two assists so far. Window, a Manchester City academy product, is a striker who can play in multiple positions (she even moved into central defense in the dying minutes of the team’s 5-0 win over St. Peter’s.

Two other players to watch in attack are midfielders Elizabeth Cruz and Aoi Kataoka. Cruz, a junior, entered the season with 10 starts and two goals to her name. A versatile striker who has seen action as a winger, attacking midfielder and striker, Cruz’s speed and technical ability create chances for herself and her teammates.

Kataoka, a freshman, showed her technical ability, pressure ability and strength in tackles for 330 minutes in the first six games, in which she got two starts. Kataoka scored his first collegiate goal against St. Peter’s and was a spark plug in the Buff & Blue offense. The Paramus, NJ native, who wears the prestigious number 10, has been used by Demko in various positions but has seen the most action in attacking midfield.

With 11 new players, the team also has some new faces on the touchline. This offseason, assistants Kate Dylag and Zak Davis moved to Alma College and Middle Tennessee State, respectively. Demko brought in Bill Reno, who was most recently with the Connecticut men’s team, and Alex Zaroyan, who spent the past two years with Tennessee Martin.

The team avoided a matchup with Saint Louis this season, which was picked first in the A-10 pre-season coaches poll and ranked 12th in the most recent national United Soccer Coaches poll. The Billikens won the A-10 last season and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. So far this year, they’ve downed No. 8 Arkansas and No. 21 Xavier.

Additionally, the team can face newcomers A-10 Loyola Chicago at home this season rather than traveling to Windy City. The Ramblers were ranked third in the A-10 preseason poll and won the Missouri Valley Conference last year, making an NCAA Tournament appearance. This year, they tied with Big 10 opponents #24 Wisconsin and Illinois.

The Colonials have positioned themselves well for a strong performance in the Atlantic 10 this year, fortifying the defense and revamping their offensive depth. The real challenges will come when conference play begins, but the team has passed all of its tests so far.

Photo credit: Greg Fiume

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