It took the women’s soccer team two overtimes to seal their first Atlantic Ten Conference win, but freshman forward Charisma Wright made it worth the wait. Wright’s goal in the 118th minute downed George Washington, 3-2, at Ambler Field on Sunday.
The team’s underclassmen carried most of the weight, with two goals from freshmen and one from a sophomore. Wright and freshman midfielder Wendy Halina scored their first collegiate goals.
Freshman goalkeeper Tiffany Kasunich anchored the defense with another strong performance in the net, reeling in 11 saves, the highest of her brief career.
The Owls (2-13, 1-5 in the A-10) are excited to see if they can continue their strong offensive play against local rival and conference opponent Saint Joseph’s this Saturday.
“We’re going to try to do what we did today,” Wright said. “Just put together a good game and add on to today, try to get as many wins as possible.”
Wright’s goal ended a see-saw battle between the two teams. The Owls refused to submit despite falling behind the Colonials twice. GW started the scoring when midfielder Ina Kain converted a penalty shot in the 16th minute.
Later in the half, freshman defender Cori Gallagher lined up for a direct kick just inside the Colonials’ zone. After her shot was deflected, freshman forward Kersha Walker evened the score for the Owls, burying the ball while she clashed with a group of defenders in front of the net.
In the second half, with the Owls trailing 2-1, Halina evened the score. Halina turned a corner kick into a header that was just out of goalkeeper Anna Handzlik’s reach.
With three minutes left in the second overtime period, Wright and Handzlik collided. Wright came away with the ball and put it in an empty net to give the Owls the win.
Both squads had to fight another opponent – the day’s weather, Wright said. The team stayed off Ambler Field for most of the week to spare the playing surface.
“I think [the conditions were] not so bad for us as GW,” Wright said. “We kind of know the areas on our field, where the ball will stop. We knew when the ball was played to certain spots we would be the first to it.”
Defensive play was also burdened by strong winds. Defenders had trouble with large clears and goal kicks, Kasunich said.
“Wind was a huge factor today,” Kasunich said. “If you were on the side with the wind, you definitely had an advantage.”
The Owls struggled through the first overtime period while the Colonials had the wind at their backs. Kasunich faced seven shots during that period, holding the Colonials off the scoreboard.
Going into the second overtime, after 105 minutes of play, Wright said the will to win overcame her growing fatigue. It was the team’s first overtime game of the season.
“I didn’t want to come out at all,” Wright said. “I was trying to push myself no matter what. We tried to stay focused. Everyone tried to fight through. It was hard though. Everybody wanted to win.”
Coach David Jones was absent from Sunday’s game. Assistant coach Kaitlin Ross covered the sidelines for the Owls, leading them to their second victory of the season. Players would not say why Jones had to miss the game.
“We tried to play harder to get one for [Jones],” Wright said. “We haven’t been winning. He didn’t want to miss the game today, but he had to.”
Kasunich said Ross let the players make most on-field decisions themselves.
“It was a little different,” Kasunich said. “I think we all kind of took it in our own hands today. The assistant coaches were there for support, but the girls really took it in their own hands.”
The women’s soccer team only practiced on their field at Ambler twice this week, because of the storms that saturated the field for Sunday’s match with George Washington.
The pitch played a factor in Sunday’s victory when a large mud puddle developed around mid-field. The team will stay off the field this week to prepare for Saturday’s match up with St. Joseph’s.
Chris Reber can be reached at email@example.com.