The women’s football team is expected to continue the hot start in the A-10 game | DayNews WRGW Sports

Author: Liam Omerchu

Women’s football got off to a strong start, entering the conference Thursday with three wins and three draws. It was the Colonials’ best start since 2016, when they started 6-0 and then finished 11-7-3 with a loss in the Atlantic 10 championship game.

Despite bringing in 11 freshmen, the Colonists have been hard to break on defense and have played well as a group. The team has conceded just two goals in six games and has gone 417 straight minutes without conceding a goal.

Defense is something the team has struggled with last season, especially early in their schedule. In eight non-conference games to start the year, the Colonies conceded 21 goals. That equates to 2.6 goals per game, while this year’s teams have conceded 0.3 goals per game as they enter the fixture portion of their fixtures.

Much of this defensive prowess can be attributed to the continuity of the backline. The graduate centre-back duo of Cammie Dopke and Aza Keohan have played 504 of 540 minutes together so far. Right-back Margaret Rabbit missed just 45 minutes and, most impressively, freshman left-back Avril Silva played all but the final 17 minutes of the 5-0 win over St. Peters.

There is less continuity between the pipes, but everyone who saw the scene was impressed. Freshman Grace Crowe and sophomore Ainsley Lumpe have split time, and each player has played 270 minutes so far. Crowe has five saves and is one of four DI goalkeepers yet to concede a goal this season. Meanwhile, Lompe made six saves and conceded a goal in the penalty shootout against Howard.

Also worth mentioning on the defensive side is redshirt sophomore midfielder Caitlin Cunningham. The transfer player from Arlington, Va. and Marquette showed her ability to cover ground and win tackles in 209 minutes in four games, even though she was in the team’s last two games. No uniform.

On offense, graduate forward Rachel Thorken has been a star for the Colony. Soken, who missed the entire season last season due to injury, has scored five goals and provided one assist. With Sunday’s goal against Howard, Soken is tied for 11th on the GW women’s soccer all-time scoring list with 18 goals.

Also looking to make an impact in attack are midfielders Isabel Esque and Sammy Neiman. Eskay is a senior who will be looking to represent her thriving shot and stamina. Neiman is a graduate student, and with her strong passing ability, she will be an asset in creating chances and advancing the ball.

Playing a bigger role this season will be junior midfielder Lauren Prentice and sophomore midfielder Alicia Window. With five starts this year, Prentice has more than her career starts this season alone. The crafty winger is not afraid of defenders and has been rewarded with a goal and two assists so far. Window, a product of Manchester City’s academy, is an attacker who can play multiple positions (she even played as a centre-back in the final minutes of the team’s 5-0 win over St Peters.

Two other players to watch are midfielders Elizabeth Cruz and Aoi Kataoka. Cruz, a junior, entered the season with 10 starts and two goals. A versatile attacker who has played in the winger, attacking midfield and forward positions, Cruz’s speed and technical prowess creates opportunities for himself and his teammates.

Freshman Kataoka showed her technical ability, pressing ability and strength through 330 minutes in her first six matches, of which she had two starts. Kataoka scored her first college goal against St. Peters and has been a spark for Buff & Blue’s offense. The Paramus, N.J. native, who wears the famous No. 10, has been used by Demko in a number of positions, but he is best at attacking midfield.

In addition to 11 new players, the team also has new faces on the touchline. This offseason, assistants Kate Dellage and Zach Davis moved to Alma College and Middle Tennessee, respectively. Demko brought in Bill Leno, who most recently played for the Connecticut men’s team, and Alex Zaroyan, who spent the past two years with Tennessee Martin.

The team avoided a matchup this season with St. Louis, which was No. 1 in the A-10 preseason coaching poll and 12th in the most recent National Combined Football Coaches poll. The Billikens won A-10 last season and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. So far this year, they have beaten #8 Arkansas and #21 Xavier.

Also, instead of heading to the Windy City, the team will host A-10 freshman Loyola Chicago this season. The Ramblers finished third in the A-10 preseason polls and won the Missouri Valley Conference last year for the NCAA Tournament. This year they are tied with top 10 opponents #24 Wisconsin and Illinois.

The Colonists are gearing up for a strong showing at the Atlantic 10 this year, beefing up their defense and recalibrating their offensive depth. The real challenge will come at the start of the session, but so far the team has passed all the tests.

Image credit: Greg Fiume

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