Big wins usually result in long, exclamatory post-game speeches. But after William and Mary’s dominating 18-8 victory over George Mason in front of a raucous Senior Day crowd — a win that snapped a nine game losing streak — there was only one thing to say.
“Hallelujah,” head coach Brooke Ireland said.
The energy that every member of the team gained from the Senior Day pre-game festivities was apparent from the first face-off onward. The College soared to a quick 6-2 advantage after the first 10 minutes of regulation.
Most of these goals were scored from a set play where a scheming player would stand behind the net patiently, undisturbed by opposing defenders and then whip a pass into the center of the net where a Tribe attacker would be lurking, ready to pounce. Junior Krystin Mackrides benefited from several of these plays en route to a four-goal day, including three in the first half.
“At the beginning of the season, we worked the crease a lot,” Ireland said. “That was our signature shot. But I think we also capitalized on that today because we recognized that the defense was shifting and we did a good job.”
The Tribe played well in the first half, but the outcome of the game was still in doubt going into halftime with a 9-5 lead. This was especially true given the team’s recent history of grabbing early leads before surrendering them later on.
However, the Tribe hardly looked like a team that hadn’t won a game since Feb. 29 during the second half. The Tribe’s swift cutting and precision passing crafted goal opportunity after goal opportunity, leaving the Patriot players stupefied as they watched the game slip out of their control. The Tribe attackers played intelligently and persistently, waiting for the right shot to form and aggressively grabbing ground balls if a pass went awry.
“We wanted to make sure we got the ball, moved it around and gave our defense a rest,” senior Maggie Anderson said. “We’ll get their defense tired then we can score easier.”
The Tribe’s impressive offensive surge in the second half was largely built off the play of two players — Anderson and freshman Kaleigh Noon.
“We just have chemistry,” Anderson said. “When she gets the ball behind and she hears me call her name, she knows I’m cutting for her.”
This chemistry was memorably demonstrated 10 minutes into the second half. Noon, from behind the net, tossed the ball to Anderson as she leaped and thrust her stick up into the air before zinging it towards the net, scoring a miraculous goal that rocketed most of the spectators out of their seats.
“It feels really good, especially for the seniors, to get some momentum back on this field,” Noon said.
Along with two assists, Noon scored four second-half goals to help put the game out of reach. Sophomore Taelor Salmon, the team’s leading scorer for the season, also contributed two second half goals.
Although the Tribe offense played exceedingly well, the squad was guided to victory largely from the back where the defense gave the Patriots precious few opportunities and caused 20 turnovers. Freshman goalie Lucy Ferguson registered six saves, while conceding only eight goals in the game and just two in the second half.
“Our defense did a great job,” Ireland said. “They really stepped up in the second half, and I think Lucy Ferguson came up with some huge saves today which really fired up our defense.”
Sunday’s win tied the College with George Mason for last in the Colonial League with just two games left, making qualification to the CAA tournament very unlikely. But Coach Ireland sounded tepidly optimistic about her squad’s chances after the rousing victory.
“I think we still have a shot, but we need to pull off two wins this next weekend and then see how things shake out,” she said.
The Tribe travels to Drexel for another important match on Friday in Philadelphia.