William and Mary (3-5) triumphed 4-3 in a tense Colonial Athletic Association contest Sunday against James Madison (5-5) in its first conference game of the season.
Tribe sophomore forward Pippin Saunders scored a goal three times in the game against JMU, with an assist from junior midfielder Emma Clifton, rising out of a counter-attack into JMU’s unprepared defense.
Shortly after, despite sophomore goalkeeper Meredith Savage’s attempt to clear it, JMU midfielder Rosalie Becker launched the rebound ball into the Tribe’s goal-cage before Savage could recalibrate.
The Tribe quickly regained its lead after another impressive Saunders goal off an offensive corner at the 10 minute mark.
The Tribe maintained its lead over JMU with some great defensive playing. Savage deflected several shots on goal with some consequential clearing.
Savage took over the goalkeeper position Sunday after sophomore Cate Johnson, who notched an impressive shutout against Davidson last week, suffered a concussion in practice Monday.
“We actually have had her in the training room all week, and she was only cleared just before the game to do practice on Monday,” head coach Tess Ellis said. “So at the moment Meredith [Savage] stepped up to the plate, which was great. … She played with a lot of aggression, which she hasn’t shown before as a young goalkeeper, so I was pretty happy.”
Despite the strong barrier, JMU managed to pull through with another game-tying goal by midfielder Loes Stijntjes on a corner play. Stijnties scored once more against the Tribe in a seemingly identical play 3 minutes later to put the Dukes in the lead.
JMU’s lead was short-lived. Tribe sophomore midfielder Esty Byrd answered right back in the last seconds of the first half, scoring against JMU on an offensive corner with assists from Clifton and Saunders.
Tied 3-3, the second period was an intense battle for a coveted conference win. The first half was a defensive one for the Tribe with JMU notching 10 shots, while the Tribe only had five. The statistics reversed in the second half as the Tribe had 10 shots on goal compared to JMU’s two.
With less than 5 minutes remaining and the scoreboard still even, the pressure to score was at an all-time high for both teams. The prospect of overtime was anticipated until the Tribe’s duo of freshman forwards broke through. Olivia Hajek scored the decisive goal off a deflection with an assist from Maria Pastor.
JMU continued to apply offensive pressure in vain. The game ended with a futile Dukes’ offensive corner, giving the Tribe a 4-3 victory.
Ellis and the players were excited to start off their conference slate with a win, especially considering the results of last year’s conference standings.
“I think it sort of says to the rest of the conference we’re not the team we used to be. … Meredith Savage, our goalkeeper, played excellent, made some key saves,” said Ellis. “It was great out front, great in the midfield. We just played really well and executed what we wanted to do so we’re very happy with that and hopefully we can keep it going. Last year we didn’t play so well so it was great to come out here on our own turf and get a win, it meant a lot to us and the coaches I know.”
The Tribe will play its next CAA game at Delaware Friday.