In a season filled with a treacherous non-conference schedule, William and Mary thought it was getting a break when it faced Richmond last Wednesday. The Spiders, with a losing record, were also one of the first unranked teams the College faced all year. Instead of getting a breather, the Spiders thoroughly defeated the Tribe, sending the squad back to Williamsburg with a disheartening loss.
Just four days later, the College found itself in State College, Pa. seeking to right the ship against yet another top-10 squad, No. 9 Penn State. The Tribe turned in a much better performance this time around, leading for most of the contest before falling 9-7 in a hard-fought defensive matchup.
“To me, the Richmond game was a fluke,” head coach Brooke Ireland said. “I don’t know what happened that game. I wish I could erase it from my memory. We came out really strong against Penn State, thinking we could win. … Regardless of the score, I came out of there thinking, ‘we did this.’ The score didn’t make that much of a difference to me, it was really how they played together as a team.”
The loss, which drops the College to 2-8 on the season, marks the end of a brutally difficult non-conference schedule. The College went 0-6 against top 10 opponents and was outscored 96-42 over the course of those six contests.
Despite the eventual loss, the Tribe turned in one of its most encouraging performances of the season. The match was closely contested, as neither team was ahead by more than two goals at any point. The College led the way for the majority of the contest before being usurped by Penn State midway through the second period.
The College played well defensively, limiting Penn State to nine goals — only the second time all season it has held an opponent to under 10 goals. Freshman goalkeeper Lucy Ferguson turned in one of her finest performances of the season, recording 11 saves while allowing just nine goals.
Offensively, the College did not register many shots but was very efficient with its scoring chances. The Tribe managed just 16 shots all game but converted seven of them for goals. Penn State, meanwhile, recorded 33 shots but was far less efficient, scoring on 9 of its 33 attempts.
Individually, junior attacker Kyrstin Mackrides led the Tribe with three goals on five shots, while four other Tribe players recorded goals in the contest as well.
“[Mackrides] definitely stepped up to the plate,” Ireland said. “She is one of the quickest, most dominant players on our team. She is quiet, but she gets the job done, and if we can have her on all the time, she is going to definitely be a much larger threat in the conference season.”
Penn State struck first, as Tatum Coffey scored an unassisted goal with less than a minute after play began. The College did not wait long to retaliate. Sophomore attacker Jenna Dougherty took the feed from freshman attacker Kaleigh Noon and slipped it past Penn State goalkeeper Dana Cahill to tie the contest at one goal apiece with 28 minutes left in the first period.
After Dougherty’s goal, the Tribe continued to out-maneuver the Nittany Lions, scoring two more goals over the next 10 minutes. Mackrides earned her first goal of the day at 25 minutes, 17 seconds into game play while senior midfielder Maggie Anderson added another score off a Noon assist to make it 3-1 with 17:46 remaining.
Penn State recovered following the 3-0 Tribe run, adding two more goals in the final minutes of the first half. Mackrides connected on her second goal of the day to secure a 4-3 halftime lead for the Tribe.
The College would benefit from Mackrides’ hot hand one last time. Five minutes after play resumed, Mackrides scored her third unassisted goal of the day to put the Tribe up 5-3. Yet the College’s lead would quickly evaporate due to a pair of quick goals by Penn State’s Molly Fernandez. Fernandez scored off Maggie McCormick’s assist at the 20:24 mark and then added another unassisted goal less than a minute later to even the score at five goals apiece.
From there, the Nittany Lions would go on a 4-2 run to end the game. Sophomore attacker Taelor Salmon gave the Tribe its final lead of the day at the 13:20 mark, which put the College up 7-6, but three straight Penn State goals put the game out of reach for the College.
Despite the disappointing result, the Tribe will seek to improve its fortunes when it begins its conference slate against Old Dominion Sunday.
“If we continue to play like we have against these top 10 teams, the conference schedule should be good competition for us,” Ireland said. “I feel very confident going into our conference season.”