The biggest question coming into the 2009 season for the College of William and Mary was simple: who would fill the holes created by the graduation of last season’s stellar senior class?
Unfortunately for the Tribe in its first match of the season, the answer was the University of North Carolina–Charlotte.
The Tribe (0-1) lost their home-opener to the 49ers 3-0 Sunday, in a match which left head coach John Daly disappointed.
“A very poor performance from front to back,” Daly said. “To be honest there was so much that was below par. We didn’t pressure, we allowed them to just knock the ball around. When we got the ball, we just gave it away way too cheaply. We defended very, very softly right from the front to the back.”
In fairness, it was the Tribe’s first match of the season and the heat did not make the running easy. But Daly and his staff were still left with plenty about which to be concerned.
Junior goalkeeper Grace Barnard’s clearances were chief among them.
Barnard repeatedly struggled to send her punts and free kicks to the center line, most noticeably in the 27th minute, when her goal kick hit Charlotte forward Whitney Weinraub in the chest 20 yards from goal. With all but one Tribe defender behind her, Weinraub sent the ball into the lower left corner past a diving Barnard for the first goal allowed on the season.
Another area of concern was the lack of communication on defense. Sophomore Diana Wiegel, who finished fourth in points last season, made the start at left back alongside junior Katy Winsper and co-captains junior Kaitlin O’Connor and senior Juli Valls.
Both Wiegel and O’Connor played balls beautifully into the box on the offensive end, yet the defense as a whole gave Charlotte ample space in which to operate, seemingly begging them to attack. And the 49ers obliged them in the 37th minute, when an uncovered Carrie Dell took a cross from the right side, made one move past a recovering Valls and sent the ball into the lower left corner of the net to make the score 2-0.
Charlotte’s third goal came in the 72nd minute, when a questionable call on a tackle in the box gave 49er midfielder Hailey Beam a penalty kick opportunity, which she converted.
“The communication everywhere was poor,” Daly said. “I just thought we were 11 players out there. We didn’t play as a unit, we didn’t pressure together, we didn’t travel together—it was just a very, very poor performance.”
The Tribe failed to mount much of an attack on the offensive end as they struggled to maintain possession, both in the midfield and along the sidelines. The squad’s best opportunity came in the 32nd minute, when an O’Connor free kick from 25 yards out banged off the crossbar before settling just in front of the goalmouth. Freshman midfielder Katrina Smedley rushed in to try and collect the rebound, but the 49ers punched the ball out of the box before she could offer up her follow up.
In the 56th minute, sophomore forward Stephanie Gerow made a nice run into the Charlotte third, playing the ball to freshman forward Erin Liberatore in the box, but Liberatore’s shot sailed over the crossbar.
If Sunday’s performance took place in say late October, it may have left the Tribe more discouraged. Yet, the promise of the long season ahead outweighed any discouragement.
“We have a few kinks to work out,” senior forward Kellie Jenkins said. “This is our first time playing and we have some big holes to fill. We lost a couple of key players as everybody knows. I just think we have to work that out and get used to playing together.”
Notes: Sophomore midfielder Diana Weigel left the game in the 61st minute due to a cramp in her left calf and did not return. Daly said Weigel has been dealing with her muscles cramping during the preseason…Freshman midfielder Mallory Schaffer and freshman forward Erin Liberatore made their first career starts on Sunday…Claire Zimmeck, third all time at the College in goals scored and an All American last season, will spend this season serving as a voluntary assistant coach.