Neither Delaware’s strong defense nor a blistering October heat were able to derail William and Mary Sunday, as the Tribe battled to a 2-1 home win over the visiting Blue Hens. The Tribe (6-1-4, 3-0 CAA) ran its unbeaten streak to 10 games by virtue of a suffocating defense and two goals despite a strong Delaware (7-6-0, 1-2-0 CAA) defensive effort.
“We played quite well,” head coach John Daly said. “We defended well … we scored two nice goals — maybe could’ve had one or two more — but they could’ve had a couple more as well.”
The College caught a break in the ninth minute, when Delaware defenders appeared to lose track of sophomore forward Katie Johnston as she positioned herself in front of the net. Senior forwards Dani Rutter and Audrey Barry slipped the ball through the unaware defense, and Johnston fired an undefended shot to give the College an early 1-0 advantage.
That early goal proved crucial, as the rest of the first half belonged to the Blue Hens. The visitors out-shot the College 9-5 in the opening half, controlling the ball for much of the period and using a high-pressure defense to bottle up the Tribe attack. For stretches, the Tribe struggled to work the ball past midfield, as the Blue Hens constantly swarmed the ball and denied the College any sustained rhythm.
Delaware nearly tied the game in the 34th minute when a shot flew toward a briefly unoccupied Tribe net. However, junior defender Christina Popps broke up the play with a perfectly timed deflection to prevent the goal.
Sophomore goalie Caroline Casey, averaging an amazing 0.6 goals allowed in the team’s 10-game winning streak, was key to shutting out the Blue Hens in the first half. Casey recorded seven saves on the day.
Delaware finally manufactured a goal in the 49th minute when forward Shannon Kearney slipped a perfect cross to forward Natalie Zelenky, who was directly in front of the net. Zelenky fired a pinpoint shot just above Casey’s outstretched hands for the equalizer.
Stripped of the lead and outplayed to that point, things appeared grim for the College.
“Our goal every game is a shutout, no goals … so right after a score, you’re crushed, but you’ve just got to snap out of it,” Casey said.
The Tribe wasted little time in recovering, as junior forward Emory Camper retook the lead in the 52nd minute. Camper took a pass from sophomore midfielder Nicole Baxter and maneuvered around a Delaware defender to slice an open shot into the corner of the net. The goal was Camper’s seventh of the season and gave the Tribe a 2-1 lead.
In the intense remaining minutes, Delaware desperately battled to tie the game. The Tribe defense blocked two point-blank attempts in the 55th minute and then deflected a shot barely wide of the goal 10 minutes later. Two separate Blue Hen corner kicks went out of bounds in the second half, and Casey foiled a near goal with a leaping save.
The Blue Hens kept the Tribe defense under constant fire after halftime and physically defended Tribe attackers at every opportunity, struggling to gain any possible edge over the College. The Tribe, however, stayed strong and withstood the physical play, preserving its 2-1 lead to seal the win.
The Blue Hens out-shot the Tribe 22-10 and dominated possession, but the Tribe, as it has all season, defended brilliantly and came up with goals when needed. Despite some narrow escapes throughout the season, the Tribe stands unbeaten in 10 matches and 3-0 in conference play. Still, Camper made it clear that the team is not resting on its laurels.
“It’s a big confidence boost, but I can tell you that we have things to work on, and we’re ready for the rest of the season,” Camper said.
The Tribe will look to build on its unbeaten streak when it hosts Towson this Thursday at 7 p.m. at Albert-Daly Field.