JMU Invitational Round 1

The Fairfield Inn by Marriott James Madison University Invitational – to give it its full name – presented a contrast in the first round of matches. In the opener, William & Mary dispatched Seton Hall easily, 5-1, while in the nightcap Georgetown had a tight, high-scoring battle with hosts James Madison before prevailing, 4-3.

If you had to set up a pecking order among the teams, it would definitely be:

1. Georgetown – last year 6-1-2 and #2 in Big East, 11-5-6 overall, ranked #25 in country.
2. James Madison – 7-2 and #2 in Colonial Athletic Association, 12-8 overall.
3. William & Mary – 5-4 and #4 in CAA, 12-6-1 overall.
4. Seton Hall – 0-6-3 in Big East, 3-10-5 overall.

I don’t want to diss Seton Hall too badly, but one of these teams is not like the others, and it showed in the results.

William & Mary 5, Seton Hall 1

Seven William & Mary players were familiar to me from playing on DC-area W-League teams during the summer: Elysse Branton, Rachel Moore, Claire Robbins, and Maire Shine are from the Braddock Road Stars Elite. Goalkeeper Caroline Casey backstopped the Washington Spirit Reserves to the W-League championship. Leci Irvin has played for the Reserves the last two years, and Jessica Van Dyke – who transferred to W&M after three years at Loyola – played for them in 2013, scoring a goal for them that clinched a playoff spot.

The familiar names contributed from the get-go. I was still getting settled in when the Tribe started their rout, Braddock Road’s Elysse Branton sending a through ball on the right to Samantha Cordum, who put the ball in the net just 1:24 in. Ten minutes later Cordum was through again on the right and sent in a shot that got past freshman goalkeeper Anna McLean. Another Braddock Roader, Rachel Moore, was right there and easily redirected the ball into the open net.

Cordum continued to be dangerous the rest of the half, repeatedly outrunning defenders either to the ball or with the ball, but couldn’t quite get her shots on target. Still, the second-place scorer from last season (7 goals, 5 assists), and the top scorer remaining now that Emory Camper (10 G, 3 A) has graduated, made a case for a player to keep an eye on.

The third goal came nine minutes into the second half, Sami Grasso winning a battle with the goalkeeper with her first shot blocked but her second getting through, a slow bouncer that seemed to take forever to go in, but no one was there to stop it.

In the next minute, Seton Hall’s Amanda Gulli – their leading scorer from last year (1 G, 3 A) got through and 1-on-1 with goalkeeper Casey. She tried to dodge by, and Casey tripped her in the box while going for the ball, earning herself a yellow card and a penalty kick for the Pirates. Gulli took the PK and sent it into the lower right corner. Casey read it well and even got her fingertips on it, but not enough to keep it from rolling in.

Cordum tried channeling Crystal Dunn in the 65th minute, taking on three defenders and getting off a shot but sending it high.

The rout would be completed in seventeen seconds in the 67th minute. In a flurry in the goalmouth, freshman Mackenzie Kober tapped in a loose ball. Then off the ensuing kickoff and before I’d finished the tweet about the previous goal, Kober got the ball to Grasso in the box, whose shot went in after the goalkeeper and a defender collided while trying to get in the way.

William & Mary emptied their bench after that, Claire Robbins coming in at the 83 mark to get her first NCAA minutes, and Jessica van Dyke getting her first Tribe appearance just seconds later. It was possibly adding insult to injury when backup goalkeeper Grace Smith – who wasn’t even on the game day roster – subbed in as a field player in the 86th minute.

Moore, one of the bedrock players for Braddock Road and the Tribe’s #3 scorer last year, is normally a defensive central midfielder but for this game was pushed up top as more of an attacking left flank midfielder – like trying to turn Shannon Boxx into Megan Rapinoe. “I’m playing a position that I’m not good at,” she said, “and I’m not very experienced in, so we’ll see how long that lasts. But so far I like [my usual position] better.”

And Robbins about her first college minutes: “It was good. I was pretty nervous but excited.”

Georgetown 4, James Madison 3

The only player familiar to me in this match was JMU poster girl Ashley Herndon, starting her junior year with the Dukes after being their leading scorer last year as a sophomore. She assisted on the game-winning goal in the W-League championship for the Spirit Reserves in her fifth year with that team.

On the other hand, I knew all three assistant coaches for Georgetown: Win Puffer used to coach the Freedom’s W-League team; Lyndse Hokanson was goalkeeper for the ASA Chesapeake Charge and backup goalkeeper for the pro Spirit during the World Cup; and Kristin Meier captains Braddock Road’s W-League team when she’s healthy.

The Dukes drew first blood on the nationally ranked Georgetown Hoyas in the 15th minute. Sydney Braun-McLeod sent in a cross from the right that goalkeeper Emma Newins tried to punch clear, but it came out to Allie Bunner, who slid the ball into the lower right corner from about 15 out.

The Hoyas almost scored in the 18th minute off a corner kick, but the ball was headed off the line by the defender at the left post. That resulted in another corner kick, and this time Marina Paul sent it directly in despite another attempt at a header save.

Georgetown would take the lead in the 30th minute when Crystal Thomas fed Grace Damaska with a perfect though ball. One-on-one with goalkeeper Ellen Forrest, Damaska tucked it into the lower right corner from just inside the box.

JMU tied it back up in the 51st minute off a corner kick. Kelly Kerrigan sent the ball in, Allison Bortell headed it closer to goal, and Bunner earned her brace by heading it into the net.

The tie lasted just five minutes, though, as Damaska got another nice through ball, this time from Rachel Corboz, and again tucked it into the lower right corner.

That would last just four minutes as the Duke’s Braun-McLeod sent in another cross from the right. This time Herndon got her head on it at the left post and bounced it off the right post and in.

Audra Ayotte would get the clincher for the Hoyas in the 70th minute off a feed from Caitlin Farrell.

Tomorrow (Sunday) Georgetown takes on William & Mary while James Madison takes on Seton Hall. CAA rivals JMU and W&M will face each other later in the season.

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