Streaks are tricky — hard to snap, hard to start, but easy to slide into a bad one.
Following last Thursday’s loss to Virginia Commonwealth, William and Mary had to decide whether that streak-snapping loss was a start of a new streak, or just an anomaly.
Ninety minutes later, the College (7-3, 1-0 CAA) had their answer in the form of a gritty 2-0 win over visiting Colonial Athletic Association foe James Madison.
“We knew we didn’t play well on Thursday; we let ourselves down pretty badly. The players knew it, we all knew it. We emphasized that we’re starting conference play now, and we know what we’re capable of doing, so let’s get out there and let’s show it,” head coach John Daly said. “And of course we didn’t do particularly well in the first half, but the second half was one way.”
The win wasn’t easy. JMU (3-7, CAA 1-1) outshot the College 9-0 in the first half, putting shots on goal that brought the best out of freshman goaltender Caroline Casey.
“In the first half, we just weren’t playing very well offensively. Defensively, we had it under control — everyone was marking up following their marks,” senior midfielder Cortlyn Bristol said.
Tribe defense had their hands full the first half. The Dukes mounted attack after attack, grazing the crossbar at the 30-minute mark. With under five to play, JMU did find the back of the net, only to have the goal called back by the officials.
Halftime came as a relief and gave Daly a chance to reorganize his team.
“We talked about our front players doing a better job of receiving the ball because they were being bullied; they were being pushed off the ball. They just needed to be more resilient and hang on to the ball,” Daly said.
Daly’s advice paid off immediately. The College registered six early shots in the second half, en route to 13 shots in the second half.
“In the second, we all decided we wanted to get a goal early, and end it early,” Bristol said.
Junior midfielder Dani Rutter helped that cause, finding room on the right hand side and fending off a defender before cutting back toward the JMU goal.
“Dani took the ball out wide, went all the way to the end line and I was standing near the PK line and Dani just slid it back and I had an open shot on goal,” sophomore Emory Camper said.
Camper wouldn’t waste the open shot, and buried the attempt to push the College ahead with just under 20 minutes to play.
For Bristol, the goal definitively shifted the momentum of the game.
“It was huge. I have to give Dani a lot of credit on that one. She could have shot it, but she laid it back for Emory, and Emory just slotted it. Perfect,” Bristol said.
JMU countered with an impressive offensive flurry late in the half. A JMU corner again forced Casey and the Tribe defense into action.
After the initial JMU header slammed the underside of the cross bar, the ball dropped into a throng of players. Two Casey saves and frantic defending kept the sheet clean for the College.
The crossbar came into play again moments later, but this time on the south end of the field. Leci Irvin’s cross found freshman midfielder Nicole Baxter. Falling straight down from the bar, the ball trickled over the line for a commanding 2-0 lead.
“It was a great goal — you couldn’t really tell if it had gone in. That was the dealbreaker,” Camper said.