By: Liam O’Murchu
Women’s soccer beat Chicago State 1-0 on Sunday afternoon to finish the non-conference portion of the schedule undefeated and gain some momentum headed into their final four conference matches.
“I thought, in the first half, our energy was really good coming out of the gate.” GW head coach Michelle Demko said. “We talked about the focus from the opening whistle. I think we scored two minutes in, which is fantastic. I thought we were a little bit flat coming out in the second half. So I felt like that was a little bit below the standard and we talked about things — there was an injury four minutes in — and just talked about maintaining our foot on the gas.”
The winning goal came in the second minute from someone who’s been a reliable source of goals this year. Graduate student Rachel Sorkenn finished a cross on the ground after junior midfielder Elizabeth Cruz made a surging run down the right wing. This was her eighth goal of the season and the 21st of her career. This moves the Miami transfer into a tie for eighth place on the GW women’s soccer all-time goalscorers list with current athletic director Tanya Vogel.
“I don’t really care about that stuff that much.” Sorkenn said. “I just want us to win, but it’s an honor, especially to be tied with Tanya. I talked to her about the other day and she was like, ‘honestly, I want you to break it. You beat my sister already.’ So it’s cool.”
From there, GW continued to dominate the game, controlling possession and the tempo of the match. However, the Buff & Blue (5-3-6, 0-3-3 A-10) needed to be a step quicker in the attack if they wanted to get an insurance goal.
In the 32nd minute, Sorkenn looked to double GW’s lead after dispossessing a Cougars’ (3-12-1) defender. She made her way in on goal but had her shot saved by sophomore goalkeeper Alexa Seiler. Seiler was arguably the best player on the field, finishing with seven saves.
The Buff & Blue continued to apply pressure but their next good chance came in the waning seconds of the first half. Freshman midfielder Isabel Kelly quickly took a corner kick and had it cleared back in her direction. As the clock approached zero, Kelly whipped the ball back in with her left foot but it was well saved by Seiler in traffic.
GW didn’t start the second half as well as they did the first but still remained on the front foot. Sorkenn got another chance in the 52nd minute off a feed from freshman midfielder Aoi Kataoka but put it over the bar.
Speaking of putting it over the bar, Kataoka had one of those herself. In the 57th minute, junior forward Lauren Prentice played a bouncing cross in, which Kataoka brought down and promptly put well over the net. Although it’s a situation the Paramus, NJ native needs to score in, she has been a bright spot on this GW team.
“Whenever there is a situation where we need to make a change, obviously her name is the one that our staff talks about.” Demko said. “She just gives us such mobility and range and she has a competitive desire to win balls as well. She’s incredibly fun to watch. She’s a joy to coach, and a really, really, really good teammate.”
Kataoka has been my favorite player to watch this year and is deserving of a spot on the A-10 All-Rookie Team at the end of the year. Her high soccer IQ paired with her exceptional technical skills make her a joy to watch, and it helps that she can basically slot into any position the team needs her to (she’s played six positions this season by my count).
As the second half wore on, Prentice continued to have tremendous success down Chicago State’s right side, but GW was unable to convert on any of these chances.
Crucially for GW they kept a clean sheet, showcasing their stout defense, which has been a strength all season. The team has kept seven clean sheets this year and if you take out the games against Loyola Chicago and Dayton, they’ve only conceded seven goals. The issue is that in those two matches, they conceded 10 times.
GW has four games remaining in their conference schedule and sit seven points back of the playoff places. Three of the four teams remaining on their schedule sit in a playoff position. If they want to qualify for the postseason, they need to start scoring more goals. The team has struggled to get the ball into truly dangerous areas and when they do (like they did on Sunday), the finishing has been lackluster. That needs to change but fortunately they’ve given themselves an outside chance to sneak into the A-10 Championship with four wins.
Next up for GW is St. Bonaventure at home on Thursday. The Bonnies are last in the A-10 and only have two wins this season. Kickoff is set for 3 PM and the game can be streamed on ESPN+.