Mallory Schaffer had already finished the hard part.
Having beaten her defender on the left side of the box, the freshman midfielder held the ball on her right foot, six yards in front of goal. With an open path to the net, one thought went through Schaffer’s mind.
“Don’t mess it up,” she said.
She didn’t. Schaffer struck the ball low and to the inside post to give William and Mary (8-2) its fourth goal in what would be a 6-2 victory over Georgia State.
“I saw the goalkeeper on the near post, and I don’t know why I hit it there,” Schaffer said. “There was a little sliver of space between the goalkeeper and the near post and that’s where I hit it.”
It was instinct that led Schaffer to take the shot instead of crossing to one of her teammates, the type of instinct the young Tribe has in spades this year. Four freshmen recorded points on the afternoon for the College, three of them accounting for five of the Tribe’s six goals.
But it was a senior, defender Kaitlin O’Connor, who got the Tribe going in a rocky first half, opening the scoring with her second goal of the season on a free kick from 25-yards out in the fifth minute. The Tribe would quickly allow the Panthers back into the game on a 10th minute goal, leaving Daly displeased.
“We played very poorly in the first half,” Daly said. “We scored an early goal and then we just thought it was going to be a breeze. We gave up what I considered to be a soft goal.”
A fiery halftime speech between the periods led the Tribe to come out and pressure with more intensity in the second half, especially in the midfield.
“We were allowing them to have too much time to pick their head up and see what was open when needed to pressure right away and close down the space immediately,” Schaffer said. “We did that in the second half.”
Leading that charge was freshmen forward Erin Liberatore, who scored two goals in a span of seven minutes. The first came in the 52nd minute when Liberatore settled a pass from senior forward Kellie Jenkins and ripped a shot into the upper-left corner of the net to make the score 2-1.
Freshman midfielder Katrina Smedley recorded an assist on the play, one of her two on the match. The second came on a goal in the 59th minute when Liberatore, the Tribe’s leading goal-scorer on the season, this time beat the keeper to the upper-right corner for her eighth goal on the year.
“[Head Coach John Daly] told us at half time that we basically had to play simple,” Smedley said. “I think in the second half we really did that a lot better. We didn’t play the ball you hope a player would get to … we would just kick it back and look for possession.”
After a 64th-minute goal from Jocelyn Baker brought the Panther’s back to within one. Schaffer became the second player on the day to record multiple goals, scoring in the 66th and 76th minutes. The freshman midfielder provided the capper in the 89th minute, sending a header off a free kick from O’Connor into the back of the net for her first career goal.