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The GW Hatchet

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Women’s soccer upset in first round of A-10 tournament

Senior Kristi Abbate pushes upfield during the Colonials' regular season win against George Mason. GW lost to the Patriots Thursday in the first round of the A-10 tournament.  Dan Rich | Contributing Photo Editor
Senior Kristi Abbate pushes upfield during the Colonials’ regular season win against George Mason. GW lost to the Patriots Thursday in the first round of the A-10 tournament. Dan Rich | Contributing Photo Editor
In many ways, it was like the games women’s soccer has played all through the Atlantic 10 season.

Except for how it ended. That was different. After going undefeated to win the regular season championship, the No. 1-seed Colonials fell 1-0 to No. 8-seed George Mason in the first round of the A-10 tournament Thursday at Davidson.

“We prepared for the fact that we would probably be in a tight race and we had hoped that as the game went on we would be able to control the tempo,” head coach Sarah Barnes said. “And we just lost it for a little bit, and we gave up that goal and just never recovered from it in terms of what we need to do to get a result.”

For most of the first half, neither side put many chances up on the board. With just over 10 minutes until the break, both teams had taken just three shots.

But in the 10-plus minutes before halftime, the Patriots (9-9-1, 5-5-1, A-10) started to push up the field with more success and got five more shots off before the break.

The Patriots’ ability to keep possession was clear, but the barrage of shots didn’t seem to spell too much trouble for the Colonials (15-5-0, 10-1-0 A-10). Their defense doesn’t allow a lot of anything, but is more focused on pushing opposing attackers into bad positions than shutting them down altogether.

Only one of George Mason’s shots during that run was on target, and only one other was close, so no one was pressing the panic button. GW did not noticeably change tactics going into the second half, and got solid chances from MacKenzie Cowley and Kristi Abbate, both of which nearly gave the Colonials the lead.

“They took a number of shots in the first half that were not close,” Barnes said. “They never worried me from the second they leave the kid’s foot. We just don’t believe in wasting, it’s so hard to create opportunities and get the ball into your attacking third that we just don’t believe in wasting those opportunities.”

But in the 76th minute, Mason’s Kaila Williams got a free kick at the top-right corner of the box and crossed it to teammate Emily Littell, who headed it down to where Abby Downey could direct it to the back of the net. GW’s defense was a step behind during each moment of the play, but once the ball got to Downey it was too late for goalie Miranda Horn to have a good shot at stopping it.

Trailing by one, GW started to press and got off five shots after Mason scored. The Patriots, who tallied 13 fouls in the second half, got chippy but were able to wear down the clock with their physicality.

Every other time during GW’s 13-match win streak, they’d been able to break through. Sophomore Ivana Szwejkowski had the best chance, getting one shot blocked but heading the rebound into the crossbar, but GW’s passing was not crisp enough to set up the finishing game that has been enough to win every other league contest.

“We didn’t get it done,” Barnes said. “I think probably as the pressure increased we needed to continue to stick to the plan and be a little bit more disciplined to create more looks.”

It would be a sour note to end on after one of the best seasons in program history. Just one day before the match, the Colonials saw 11 roster members receive league awards, including Barnes as Coach of the Year, senior Brooke Stoller as Defensive Player of the Year and forward Sofia Pavon as Rookie of the Year.

But they might not have to go out like that.

With the chance for an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament gone, the Colonials will have to wait to see if they get an at large bid. Selections to round out the field of 64 teams will take place Monday, Nov. 9. GW currently slots in at No. 46 in the RPI.

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