No. 20 James Madison hung with William and Mary for 90 minutes, managed to score early in the second half, and held off a late rally by the College (8-6, 5-3 CAA) to garner a 1-0 victory and drop the Tribe to third place in the CAA Wednesday at Martin Family Stadium.
“In a lot of areas, I thought our performance was pretty good. We created plenty of chances to score and probably deserved a goal on the night,” head coach Chris Norris said. “Disappointed, obviously, with the way it came out … but James Madison, much like us, has a good record for a reason.”
Both teams started the game getting acclimated to the wet field conditions, which Norris said was a major factor in his team’s performance. Senior goalkeeper Colin Smolinsky was forced to make the only save in the early going, punching a header over the crossbar to safety. The Dukes had more opportunities early, earning six corner kicks in the first 30 minutes of the game.
The best chance of the game for the Tribe came in the 38th minute. Freshman midfielder Chris Albiston sent a cross into the box from the left side. Senior midfielder Nicolas Abrigo found the ball on the run and sent a perfectly-placed header into the bottom left corner of the goal. JMU goalkeeper Justin Epperson made a spectacular play, fully stretching out and getting one hand on the header to knock it away.
“At that point, I think we were starting to take over … if that goalie doesn’t make that save, it’s a different game,” Abrigo said. “It was one of the best saves I’ve seen in a while.”
Neither team had another real chance until the 60th minute, when the Dukes got what would prove to be the game-winning goal. A long ball was played into the box and dropped past the Tribe defenders. A shot from close range was blocked, but rebounded to JMU forward Boyd Reid, catching Smolinsky out of position. Reid’s shot was blocked on what appeared to be a handball, but play kept going and Reid collected the second rebound and poked the ball into the net for the goal.
“It was a very avoidable goal,” Norris said. “Hats off to them, they did a good job with the one chance they got in that particular occasion and stuck it away, but I felt like we deserved more from the game.”
At the 70-minute mark, the College sent another man forward and began to put serious pressure on the JMU defense, but the team was unable to put another serious threat on goal. Though the Tribe controlled much of the possession late in the game, the team finished with just three shots on goal.
“There have been nights where we have not been the better team and we’ve come out with the result” Norris said. “Tonight we were the better team, I thought, and didn’t get the result. Sometimes that’s just soccer; that’s what makes it exciting.”
The loss knocked the Tribe out of a tie for first place with JMU and Old Dominion. The Tribe is now three points out of first place with three conference games left on the season. The team plays on the road at Delaware and Wake Forest before returning to Williamsburg next Saturday against Hofstra.