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JMU looks at the ball against American on Aug. 22.

Fresh off its win at High Point on Sept. 12, JMU returned to Sentara Park on Thursday to battle No. 15 West Virginia. The Mountaineers led 2-0 for the majority of the second half, but pouring rain coupled with a late JMU goal brought slower and sloppy play, culminating in a 2-1 JMU defeat.

It didn’t take long for the scoreboard to change — WVU junior defender Julianne Vallerrand found the back of the net at 2’ on a rocket from behind the 18-yard box, assisted by freshman forward Dilary Heredia-Beltran. It was Vallerand’s fourth goal of the season, currently leading the Mountaineers in scoring. 

WVU was back on the attack at 6’. A corner by senior defender Jordan Brewster created a header opportunity for junior midfielder Maya McCutcheon that trickled wide of the net. The Mountaineers fired another shot at 9’, but it was swallowed up by JMU redshirt sophomore goalkeeper Alexandra Blom. 

JMU’s first glimmer of offense came at 19’ with a counterattack led by redshirt senior forward Ginger Deel. She led freshman forward Amanda Attanasi with a pass toward the goal, but Attanasi was called offside. Attasani was the culprit of multiple JMU offensive runs as a shooter and facilitator and, as a freshman, she said the speed is an adjustment but her teammates are helping curb that transition. 

“I work best with anyone, honestly,” Attasani said, “just having confidence with the ball, allowing myself to take people on the dribble and just distribute it to Ginger or Hannah — whoever’s making the run.”

A free kick from senior defender Jordan Brewster led to WVU’s third corner kick of the game. Another Mountaineer free kick came at 24’. It wasn’t until 25’ that JMU got its first corner kick attempt of the half — attempted by senior midfielder Iris Rabot  — via a shot by Deel. Off the corner, redshirt senior forward Hannah Coulling fired a shot saved by WVU junior goalie Kayza Massey. 

JMU was outshot four to three and attempted two corner kicks to WVU’s three in the first half. The Dukes went into the locker room down 1-0. 

The second half began with just as many fireworks as the first. WVU sophomore midfielder Lilly McCarthy stole the ball between midfield and the 18-yard box and subsequently fired an unassisted shot past Blom’s outstretched arms to put WVU ahead 2-0. Despite the score, JMU head coach Joshua Walters Sr. said the Dukes were right there with the No. 15 team in the country. 

“I felt like we were in the game,” Walters said. “I felt like some of our best chances were ones we gave them.”

WVU kept its foot on the gas — Brewster attempted two more corners for the Mountaineers at 49’ and 53’, respectively, as the ball stayed on JMU’s end of the field early in the second half. WVU matched its amount of first half corners 15 minutes into the second half. Walters said West Virginia’s ability to manufacture corner kicks likely won’t be replicated by upcoming CAA opponents.  

“West Virginia is so fast on the edge, so it’s hard trying to get caught chasing them and you’re a little behind them as they go,” Walters said. “I don’t think we’ll face many teams that have that kind of pace on the outside as they do.”

Rain began to pour on the field at 63’ — yet a shot from JMU redshirt sophomore Ellie Johnson was corralled by Massey’s gloves despite the conditions. Blom was first tested in the downpour at 65’ on a McCutchen shot she saved. 

At 77’, the ball went into the Mountaineers’ net, but not via a Duke — JMU brought the game within a goal after being awarded an “own goal” during a scramble by the net that saw Massey sky for a ball that took her out of position. 

“I feel like when that rain started, the momentum kind of shifted in our way,” Attanasi said. “I feel like we brought our level up a little bit, and that’s how we scored that goal.”

JMU looked to be on the verge of tying the game at 85’ on a breakaway attempt from redshirt senior Hannah Coulling, but she was called offside — a call she didn’t agree with, she said. 

“It’s disappointing when you get called on an offside,” Coulling said. “The idea was good, and we could’ve had more of those during the game.”

As the rain began to subside, WVU walked off Sentara Park with a 2-1 victory. No. 15 West Virginia moves to 5-2-1 and faces Kent State on Sunday at 1 p.m. JMU moves to 2-5-1 and will take on East Carolina at the same day and time. 

“Watching film and looking back at those little mistakes we made during the game will be helpful in the games moving forward,” Coulling said. “At the beginning of this season, [we wanted to] challenge ourselves so that we can find our mistakes and find our issues now [before] we’re going into conference [play].” 

Contact Grant Johnson at breezecopy@gmail.com. For more soccer coverage, follow the sports desk on Twitter @TheBreezeSports.