A capacity crowd screamed and stomped on the steel bleachers while William and Mary defeated Hofstra 1-0 (8-7-3, 2-3-2 CAA) in the quarterfinals of the Colonial Athletic Association tournament, extending its whirlwind season by at least one more match.
Saturday’s victory reserves the Tribe (10-4-2, 4-2-1 CAA) a date in Thursday’s semifinal match with North Carolina-Wilmington, a team it tied 2-2 on the road last week. The semifinal round is the farthest the program has reached since winning the tournament in 2010, senior captains Roshan Patel and Will Smith’s first year.
Patel and Smith, both defenders, made it clear they want their collegiate careers to come full circle. Tireless patrolling along the back line, led by Patel and Smith, and gutsy saves by freshman goalkeeper Mac Phillips helped the College earn its second straight shutout and ninth on the season. All the Tribe needed was one goal for the win.
Junior midfielder Chris Albiston provided just that in the 37th minute. Freshman forward Reilly Maw, who received a long pass from senior Ben Coffey, found Albiston in the goal box unchallenged. With just the goalkeeper to beat, Albiston buried the ball in the lower left corner of the net.
“The goal kind of came out of nothing,” Albiston said. “It was really Reilly’s goal; he worked his butt off to get the ball up. It was a right place, right time sort of thing, and I just slid it past the keeper.”
In the season finale against James Madison, the Tribe scored one goal and then was able to coast off of its stifling defense to earn the result it wanted. Saturday’s outcome followed the same pattern. With Hofstra fighting for its season, however, the Pride would not go down easily.
Phillips recorded three of his six saves in the second half as the Pride pressed hard into the College’s side of the field. Hofstra launched 10 shots in the second period, many of which came dangerously close to being the equalizer. On one particularly close shot, Phillips had to dive to snatch a header that was goal-bound. Once safely corralled, the relief of the fans in attendance was palpable.
Although they attempted eight shots in the second half, the Tribe’s offensive players failed to manufacture many scoring chances. Hofstra’s two goalkeepers, Roberto Pellegrini and Patric Pray, made just one save in the second half, as most of the Tribe’s shots sailed well over the crossbars. Due to Hofstra’s aggressive formation following the first-half goal, the College found itself with plenty of room for the counter-attack. But each one was squandered with a misdirected shot.
“We probably deserved more than a goal, but a lot that came down to our finishing just not being clinical enough,” head coach Chris Norris said. “The second half was just kind of crazy.”
As the scoreboard ticked down closer and closer to the 90 minute-mark, tensions between the two teams flared. There were 10 fouls in the game, but none as contentious as those in the final minutes. Hofstra’s players seemed to goad the College’s players into making mistakes. The Tribe, however, held strong and didn’t betray its composure until the end.
The Tribe applauded its fans following the final whistle. The fans, in turn, gave the Tribe a rousing ovation to send the team out of Martin Family Stadium with full support going into the final stages of the tournament.
“We feel pretty confident going in the postseason now,” Albiston said.
The College will face UNC-W in the semifinals of the CAA tournament in Philadelphia, Pa. Thursday. Kickoff is set for 4 p.m.