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WSOC: Four-Goal Second Half Completes 4-2 UD Rally Over GW
WSOC: Four-Goal Second Half Completes 4-2 UD Rally Over GW
Christopher Rieman
Published by Chris R
10-14-2021
Smile WSOC: Four-Goal Second Half Completes 4-2 UD Rally Over GW

George Washington -- winners of one match all season -- scored twice in the first three minutes to put the Dayton Flyers down 2-0, but a four-goal rally in the second half popped their Foggy Bottom upset bid. Itala Gemelli scored twice while Laney Huber added a goal and assist as UD improves to 8-5-2 (5-2-0) while GW improves to 1-12-2 (1-5-0).

A perfect Thursday evening at Baujan Field brought comfortable temperatures and a struggling GW squad that had been outscored 7-0 in their last three matches. Things seemed ripe for a walk in the park, but GW took the opening kickoff and pushed forward with a through ball into the box that subsequently dropped behind to a teammate facing goal. A setup touch and chip over GK Madelyn Dewey from 20yds out put the Colonials up 1-0 in perhaps the fastest goal ever scored by an opposing team at Baujan Field -- 12 seconds.

Shell-shocked, Dayton took the re-start and got a ball into the GW box, but soon after it was GW pushing forward again with a chance to score. The Colonials took possession facing goal after a poor UD clearance and struck a ball from 6yds out as Dewey challenged to make it 2-0 in the 4th minute. Defending was atrocious on both goals as players stood around ball-watching in the box while GW wasted no time showing a sense of urgency.

Dayton attempted to rebound from the stunning opening minutes by pushing long balls in the box on either corner kicks, set pieces, or left-footed crosses from Jess Sheldon sprinting the touch lines. The level of fight and tenacity inside the goal box however remained largely uneventful as numerous bouncing balls, aerial challenges, and old fashioned scrums for possession resulted in no chances of any kind. On other occasions, quality setup passes for shots on goal produced blunderbuss-type accuracy off the campus bricks.

GW counter-attacked with repeated success down the left side of the field as transition marking was oftentimes lacking when the run of play changed directions. The Colonials had tons of open space to dribble-drive and subsequently drop off passes to teammates providing support. The GW opportunities failed to produce quality shots on goal but the possession ate up minutes on the first half clock and prevented the Flyers from applying sustained pressure on the other side of the field.

Dayton's best scoring chance came in the 43rd minute but Alexa Goins' one-time strike from outside the box went wide of the post. Goins also had a header go wide of the post minutes early after winning a corner kick challenge.

Sheldon was the lone bright spot on offense, earning several corner kicks alongside the numerous quality crosses into the GW goal box. The effort to win those feeds was largely apathetic however and by the end of the half it felt like the Flyer mids and strikers were jabbed with horse tranquilizers in the pre-game stretch and unable to shake off the fog.

Halftime stats favored UD in shots 7-3 but GW earned a 3-1 advantage in shots on goal -- underscoring the inability of the Dayton offense to manufacture quality chances with any degree of accuracy. Corner kick stats supported that narrative as UD earned a 6-2 advantage from the flags.

The Flyers needed a reversal of fortune in the second half, including a quick goal to allow the offense to settle in rather than continue to press in desperation. Laney Huber answered that need in the 48th minute with a shot from 15yds out to the top left post after the ball took a deflection off a GW defender. Down 2-1 with 40 minutes remaining, UD now had some time to fall back on their training and experience to nab the equalizer. Huber almost tied the match just moments later on a through ball inside the box, but her shot went just wide of the far post.

Alicia Donley tied things up at 2-2 in the 65th minute on a terrific near-post run that met an equally-strong near-post cross from Noel Blain. The one-time redirect from 5yds out beat the marking defender and the GW goalkeeper to complete the comeback.

The next goal would probably win the match and it didn't take long for the Flyers to come up aces as Itala Gemelli ran down a ball past the last GW defender and challenged the net with only the goalkeeper to beat. Taken down in the box, Gemelli finished the PK in the lower left pocket to put the Flyers up 3-2 in the 67th minute.

UD kept the squeeze on and continued to play with far greater physicality, urgency, and passion. Controlling the run of play, GW was forced to defend in their defensive half for longer stretches and appeared to tire over the final 20 minutes of play.

Gemelli added an insurance goal in the 84th minute after Huber made a great spin move along the left flank, dropped a defender, and used the dribble-drive to push toward the GW box. Her feed found Gemelli's feet and after another spin-and-turn, she tucked it nicely inside the near post to make it 4-2 and round out the scoring.

Second half stats were dominated by Dayton. Shots were 13-3 and corner kicks were 5-2. Most importantly, the Flyers put six shots on frame - converting four.

It was a tale of two matches as the first half was lethargic at best and void of almost any redeeming qualities aside from Sheldon's booming runs up and down the touch line. UD's failures that led to the 2-0 halftime deficit were less about talent and more about elbow grease: UD showed very little and needed an intravenous dose of energy and effort. Thankfully, the meds kicked in over the final 45 minutes and the Flyers completely dominated after the break. The first goal just moments after the restart was perhaps the most important goal of all. Tightening the match with nearly a full half of soccer still to play, the Flyers could settle in and not force the run of play in desperation. The offense did a nice job of working the ball with a faster cadence and battling harder in physical challenges in the offensive third. The Colonials were forced to defend on their heels for extended periods and eventually gaps opened for Dayton to exploit with through-balls directly on goal.

Donley's near-post goal was emblematic of the more physical presence of the team, holding off a defender while simultaneously beating the goalkeeper to tie the match at 2-2. The same chance in the first half would have resulted in a GW defensive poke-away. The Flyer defense cleaned things up too, shutting out the Colonials in the second half -- an absolute necessity if UD had any chance at a comeback.

The victory still counts like all others despite the Colonials flirting with the cellar of the Atlantic-10 standings, but UD made it far more difficult than it needed to be against a foe with just one victory to their credit. In fairness, GW has played teams in the top half of the A10 standings relatively tough, but it's unlikely those teams played as poorly a first half us UD did on Thursday night. Still, battling back with four goals in the second half not easy against any opponent and the team deserves credit for taking an honest inventory of their first half performance and making the necessary adjustments to dig themselves out of a gaping hole and potentially crushing loss.

The Flyers return to action on Sunday with a match at St. Bonaventure.
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