Thanks to two goals and one assist by senior forward Claire Zimmeck in the second half of Thursday night’s 3-2 victory over Old Dominion University, the College of William and Mary clinched first place in the conference over James Madison University.
The Tribe’s regular season championship assured the Tribe home field advantage throughout the tournament; it will host both the semifinal and final matches at Albert-Daly Field. The College will receive a bye into the semifinals and face the winner of the Hofstra University-Old Dominion University match held Tuesday night in Norfolk.
“[The bye] means a lot because the kids can have a couple of days rest, first of all, and then we’ll start gearing up,” Head Coach John Daly said.
The Tribe will have plenty of motivation as it gears up for its match Friday night. In the past three CAA tournaments, the Tribe has been eliminated in the semifinals on penalty kicks and has not won a conference tournament match since 2003.
“This is huge for me and for all the seniors. All of us really want this,” senior Abbey Lauer said. “We’ve been in the CAA semifinals twice before and haven’t even gotten to the finals.”
Although the College will host the CAA tournament semifinals and finals for the first time in school history, the Tribe is not guaranteed an easy road. Both JMU and Hofstra defeated the Tribe during the regular season, and the College has not beaten any of the other four teams in the tournament by more than one goal.
“I think having beaten a team before can be somewhat of a psychological disadvantage because sometimes you’ll go into it thinking, ‘Oh we’ve beat them before, we can do it again,’” Lauer said.
The College has established itself as a dangerous second-half team, scoring 11 goals after the 60th minute in the past nine games. But at the same time, the Tribe has managed just one first-half goal during its last six matches.
The College has also beaten strong non-conference opponents, including Brigham Young University, North Carolina State University and the University of Maryland, during the regular season, and lost to unimpressive teams Columbia University and Georgia State University.
One final question mark remains for the College as it heads into the tournament: Which Tribe team — the late-game heroes or the opening half sleepwalkers — will show up?
“I just like having the resolve to make sure we’re the first ones to score and having that momentum going forward,” Lauer said. “I think we’ve been doing well coming from behind, but in the postseason that’s going to be a lot harder to do.”