After an irregular season, women’s soccer is returning to the field seeking to qualify for the A-10 tournament.
The Colonials (0-6-2) remain winless through the non-conference slate thus far, falling into a consecutive set of ties and losses within the first eight games of the season. The team began the season with high expectations, recognized as the No. 4 seed in the A-10 preseason poll. Last year the Colonials narrowly missed the A-10 playoffs after failing to get a win over Davidson in the final game of the season. This year, after a grueling non-conference slate, the team will look to turn the corner in A-10 play.
“We’re trusting the process, we’re believing in the playbook,” head coach Michelle Demko said. “We’re showing up on a daily basis. I think that’s important. Once you lose that it’s a slippery slope, so the fact that they continue to want to show up, want to get better individually and collectively, I think it’s fantastic.”
The Colonials have struggled in front of net, averaging a .057 shooting percentage with 47.7 percent on frame, amounting to just five goals. The squad has also been outscored by a margin of 16 goals. Demko said the team has zeroed in on consistency, speed of play, and compact lines as major points of focus during team practices.
The Colonials return this season with a pool of new recruits composing six out of the 11 starting positions on the field. Demko said the incoming players have been constantly looking toward the coaching staff to help them improve their performance to continue building on the program.
This year’s defensive backline is filled with mostly new players as only three defenders have returned from last year’s roster in sophomore Margaret Rabbitt, junior Haley Curtis, and senior Madi Coyne. However, Rabbitt did not see action in her first year and Curtis made just four starts last year.
Freshman defenders Maggie Mockenhaupt, Summer Beesley, Alicia Window, Emma Midock, Sarah Patton, Amelia Booth and graduate student defender Cammie Dopke were all added during the summer offseason to revitalize the depleted 2020 roster. Demko said the new-look backline has been working on their communication to minimize opportunities for their opponents to score.
“It’s unfortunate that we’ve given up some goals where we’ve been caught kind of being ball fixated, and not kind of picking up on where the runners are,” Demko said. “But like I said, those are things that we can fix, and we can solve.”
A transfer from UConn, graduate student forward Sophia Danyko-Kulchycky said she came to GW because of the culture and coaching staff. She said it was “refreshing” to play under the new COVID-19 guidelines that allow the players to feel more comfortable and united.
Taking a central role in the Colonials offense, Danyko-Kulchycky leads the team with 13 shots on goal while her 67.2 shot on goal percentage trails just behind senior midfielder Maria Pareja with 80 percent on frame. She has tallied one goal and one assist through seven games played.
“We’re still getting used to playing with each other, we’re still getting used to, you know, different formations,” Danyko-Kulchycky said. “We’re still experimenting because really the most important thing this season is conference. That’s what we’re all looking forward towards.”
Danyko-Kulchycky said the team is focusing on their “box mentality” to improve the team’s finishing and play in front of the opposing net. She said it’s been helping them get better each game and is excited to see the direction the offense is going.
Redshirt junior goalkeeper Tamaki Machi said she has been working on her communication with the backline both on and off the field as they build chemistry with one another. Machi has averaged a .677 save percentage this season, recording 42 saves through 700 minutes of play.
“Since I came here in 2019, we’ve had the same goal, and we’ve been working towards it,” Machi said. “The past few weeks that we’ve been here, we haven’t been great, but we’re building to it right now.”
Demko said the team is disappointed they don’t have more wins to show for their performance but she recognizes they have a difficult nonconference schedule to prepare them for A-10 play. She said she is nevertheless “joyful” to be spending time with the team and continuing to work on honing the edges of the team.
“I think our job as a staff is to not shine light on that but to shine light on all the great things that are happening for us, ways that we are breaking teams down, ways that we are breaking pressure, ways that we are connecting, and able to kind of break lines and go forward,” Demko said. “So, in terms of that, I think technically, we’re a really good team.”
Following a 4–0 defeat to Pennsylvania Sunday afternoon, the Colonials will hit the road for their first match of A-10 conference play against VCU 2 p.m. Tuesday.