William and Mary came into its Sept. 26 matchup against Northeastern fresh off of a 4-match winning streak, sporting a clean 6-1-1 record, and seemingly primed for a big conference season.
The Huskies edged the Tribe 1-0 that night in Williamsburg and have since secured the No. 1 spot in the Colonial Athletic Association Tournament.
The No. 4 College (12-5-1, 5-4 CAA) gets another crack at the Huskies (12-4-3, 7-1-1 CAA) Friday at the semifinals of the CAA Tournament. Though the first match showed very little separation between the two teams, both have taken divergent paths to reach this point. The Tribe comes in as the clear underdog, having lost three of its final four matches before the tournament and losing junior forward Samantha Cordum to injury.
While Northeastern blitzed its way through the regular season CAA schedule, the College stumbled its way into the tournament on the strength of an early four game conference win streak. Ever since the streak was snapped in an overtime home loss against Drexel, the Tribe’s offense has been largely dormant, scoring five goals over four matches.
The loss of Cordum, who led the team in shots-on-goal, has limited the College’s offensive firepower, and it will need to largely rely on senior forward Emory Camper for points going forward. Camper has led the team in goals each of the last two years and contributed another score in Sunday’s 2-1 quarterfinal victory over Drexel. Junior forward Leci Irvin will likely join Camper on the front lines against Northeastern.
After Sunday’s match, Irvin spoke of a new mentality coupled with a more aggressive offensive format. If the Tribe’s two scores renewed hope in the team’s offense, the defense’s surrender of just one goal to the Dragons was plain routine for a perennially strong unit.
The College has allowed 20 goals over the course of 18 games, an especially impressive number given that the team’s often-anemic offense has notched 35 goals. The Tribe’s defense is capable of a shutout, something it has achieved six times this season. However, Friday’s semifinal matchup will see the Tribe face a defense even more daunting than its own.
Northeastern’s defense has only allowed six goals the entire season for a per-game average of 0.3. Though the Huskies have scored only 19 goals, their defense has made their offensive struggles irrelevant.
With the two teams relying on similar strengths, namely defensive prowess and control at midfield, expect Friday’s semifinal match to be a long slog.
The battle-of-attrition style of the match will make set-piece conversions even more important than usual. The Huskies’ 80th minute corner-kick goal separated the two teams in their earlier contest. Something similar could occur Friday. Which way will the ball bounce this time?
The match is scheduled to start Friday in Boston at 6 p.m.