JMU women’s soccer defeated the College of Charleston 2-1 in the CAA semifinals Sunday. After a bye in the tournament quarterfinals, the Dukes were rested and fired up to defend their home turf with a spot in the finals on the line.
“Every team knows it’s possibly their last game, so everyone’s really competitive and ready to go,” junior goalkeeper Hannah McShea said. “In a game like this, it comes down to who wants it more.”
Both teams came out aggressive in a matchup of two attacking teams as control of the game ebbed and flowed. Fresh off a 3-2 win over No. 5 Drexel on Friday, the Cougars came out hard and showed no fear as underdogs.
“At the beginning of the game, they had a bit more of the ball,” head coach Joshua Walters said. “We couldn’t do the things that we normally do.”
As always, Walters prepared his team well with in-depth film studies of the College of Charleston and Drexel, so the team was ready regardless of the outcome Friday. JMU topped the Cougars 2-1 in overtime on the road earlier in October and was familiar with how to attack Charleston’s defense.
“We saw that they really like to play in the middle and press high,” senior defender/midfielder Stephanie Hendrie said. “We wanted to play wide and get it down and get crosses in because that’s where most of their goals came from.”
Hendrie registered her first goal of the season and got the Dukes on the board 11 minutes in with a rebound off a miss from sophomore forward/midfielder Ginger Deel, who tallied the assist. It was a great day for Hendrie, who played her best game of the year with the season on the line.
“We knew [their] goalie struggled at catching balls,” Hendrie said. “Our mission as high-mids was to crash the goal. I was waiting for her to drop it and I was ready to crash it.”
The Dukes controlled most of the first half and held the College of Charleston to just one shot on goal. Unfortunately for JMU, that one shot was a goal — senior defender Raymara Barretto scored off an assist from senior forward Laura Ortega in the 16th minute.
“Everythings about No. 23, Laura Ortega,” Walters said. “She’s so good at holding the ball up and bringing other players into the game.”
The remainder of the half was scoreless as the scoreboard read 1-1 at halftime. JMU relied on its excellent defense and held Charleston to six shots on the afternoon.
“We have three freshmen in the back, and they’re all so solid,” McShea said. “They’ve kept us in games and protected me all season.”
With just over 10 minutes to play in the second half, junior forward Haley Crawford cut and sank a rebound that put JMU ahead. From there, the defense held true and the Dukes advanced to the CAA title game for a date with Hofstra.
“We think Haley Crawford should’ve been the MVP of the league,” Walters said. “[She] stepped up once again and won us the game.”
With a win over Hofstra, the Dukes would win the conference for the second time in four seasons and advance to the NCAA tournament. JMU defeated the Pride 1-0 earlier this season at home in a hard-fought contest — and the team expects Saturday’s rematch to be more of the same.
“I thought Hofstra was one of our most competitive games of our regular season,” McShea said. “I’m not focusing on our opponent, just on the ring at the end.”
Contact James Faris at email@example.com. For more soccer coverage, follow the sports desk on Twitter @TheBreezeSports.