William and Mary took an undefeated record and a physical, high-pressure style into its showdown with No. 6 Virginia Tuesday, but ultimately fell short and picked up its first loss of the season, 2-0, at home.
The College was in a one-goal hole for most of the game after allowing an early Cavaliers goal in just the second minute when U.Va.’s Phoebe Willis sent a cross in from left of goal and Rachel Sumfest slapped it into the back of the net.
“[There was] definitely miscommunication,” senior defender Christine Johnson said. “Everyone jumped to the ball, no one was staying back on their girl.”
Head coach Peel Hawthorne thought the Tribe was caught sleeping at the start.
“[It] was just a lapse of judgment. I think we were still warming up. … It was truly one of those uncharacteristic moments where [we] suddenly blanked out.”
Trailing by a goal, the Tribe turned up the intensity and controlled the rest of the half. With 17 minutes, 50 seconds left in the half, redshirt sophomore forward Leah Zamesnik controlled a pass into the shooting circle, dribbled past one defender into the middle of the circle and fired a shot just wide of the cage. Zamesnik had another good look at goal with 8:45 to go in the half, but her shot was deflected just over the bar.
“I just constantly felt like we were going to score,” Hawthorne said.
Then with 7:20 to go in the first, the College had another excellent scoring chance on one of its five penalty corners. Freshman forward Pip Saunders sent the ball into the circle where junior midfielder Manganello Chaney laid it off for Johnson, who blasted it on the ground at goal only to have the ball tipped away with a diving save from Virginia goalkeeper Rebecca Holden.
To close out the half, the Tribe came within inches of tying up the game with an advantage because of an U.Va. yellow card. Senior forward Ashley Kyle intercepted a Virginia pass and drove to the goal for a one-on-one with Holden. Kyle drew Holden off her line and stepped left, making the diving goalie miss and leaving an empty net. But in that instant, a Virginia defender was able to close down the space and block Kyle’s shot. The senior got the rebound and fired another just across the face of the goal, where Saunders got possession and took a shot of her own that flew wide of the near-post and out of play.
“Unfortunately we weren’t able to finish,” Zamesnik said. “We were unlucky tonight. I think we hit the post twice and just had random balls ping off their sticks. It’s such an intense feeling when you’re going and going and fighting so hard to get that one goal.”
Over the course of the first 35 minutes, the College took 14 shots on goal while Virginia took just four. The Tribe also established a physical style of play on both sides of the ball that Virginia didn’t seem to be expecting.
“They were really surprised about how physical it got,” Johnson said. “The refs let a lot of things go so that definitely added to it too, but we usually play very physical games so we’re used to it.”
The Tribe came back to take what would be its last shot of the game early in the second period. A penalty corner was served into the shooting circle where Johnson blasted it off the inside of the left post. Instead of bouncing into the cage, the ball rattled right across the mouth of the goal, where it was corralled by the Virginia defense.
The rest of the game saw little action from either side, with the Cavaliers taking a more defensive stance and the Tribe sending more and more players forward.
Finally, with just 2:24 remaining in the game, the College was caught with too few defenders back and Sumfest found the back of the cage for the final goal of the game.
The result may have been a disappointment, but Hawthorne and her players weren’t upset by the performance.
“This was absolute validation that we’re prepared to play at a top level and honestly I felt that we played well enough and I feel like we deserved to win tonight,” Hawthorne said. “Goals aside, obviously.”