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By Max Porter, Contributing News Editor • February 26, 2024

Strong season ends in semifinal heartbreak for women’s soccer

Junior midfielder Nicole Belfonti elevates for a header against Georgetown earlier this season. Hatchet File Photo by Cameron Lancaster | Photo Editor
Junior midfielder Nicole Belfonti elevates for a header against Georgetown earlier this season. Hatchet File Photo by Cameron Lancaster | Photo Editor
This post was written by Hatchet reporter Scott Nover.

Women’s soccer faced a heartbreaking end to a successful season Friday, with defending champions La Salle eliminating the team in the Atlantic 10 tournament semifinals.

Knotted at one after 90 minutes, the two squads entered sudden-death overtime. Against No. 1-seeded LaSalle, the underdog Colonials had put up as good of a fight as they could on the Dayton, Ohio field, pushing the Explorers to the final minutes of play.

In devastating fashion for No. 4-seeded GW, the 103rd minute saw La Salle junior midfielder Jessika Kagan cross the ball into the box. Freshman forward Kristin Haugstad one-timed the ball past GW goalie Miranda Horn to secure the walk-off win.

“Honestly, it’s the kind of game that really could have gone either way,” head coach Sarah Barnes said. “I think that at the end of the day, these guys have been in a championship setting, competing and winning A-10 championships three-straight years and competing prior to that.”

LaSalle led the A-10, going 8-0-0 in conference play leading up to the tournament.

Coming off a 1-0 win over Rhode Island on Thursday, the Colonials delivered the shock of the tournament in the 20th minute. Senior forward Meg Murphy put her head to a long free kick from senior midfielder Elizabeth Casey. Murphy jumped, made contact and headed the ball the opposite way into the right side of the net.

Murphy’s goal put the Colonials up 1-0 at halftime and into the 50th minute when A-10 Offensive Player of the Year Kelsey Haycook, the Explorer’s senior forward, scored her 19th goal on the year. Haycook received the ball in the box, kept it out of the grasp of two GW defenders, executed a skillful turn and sent the ball to goal.

The GW back line was at its best throughout the game, with strong performances by senior co-captain Alex Brothers and redshirt freshman Horn. Horn came up with five saves on the day.

Senior midfielder MacKenzie McIndoe and junior forward Kyla Ridley provided standout performances as well, breaking through lines and creating plays and chances.

“We’ve been showing all year that we’re a team you can’t take lightly,” Barnes said. “Miranda and Alex Brothers have been ready steady all year long for us, they made a lot of big plays and kept us in the game for a long time.”

The match proved to be physical. Senior defender Madison Davis and freshman forward Brittany Cooper each received yellow cards. For LaSalle, redshirt junior midfielder Emily Fenton was shown a yellow card and came up with a harsh tackle late in the game.

In the 33rd minute, the Explorers’ coaching staff received a booking of their own after a coach, enraged that a dive by Haycook in the box had not merited a penalty, stepped onto the field.

Instead of ceding control to LaSalle as they had in a 3-0 defeat earlier in the season and in last year’s tournament quarterfinals, the Colonials embraced the physicality and controlled much of the game.

Ultimately, the year-end result was GW’s best since the 1997-98 season. Barnes, in her third year, has produced increasingly successful seasons, last year making the tournament for the first time in 11 years.

“It was a spectacular year, certainly filled with ups and downs and challenges, and they always rose up for the occasion,” Barnes said. “They’ve done a lot of the little things right day in and day out and this has really been a great step forward for GW soccer.”

While GW’s campaign has ended, the A-10 tournament concludes Sunday when LaSalle takes on the winner of VCU and Dayton’s match.

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