Your Guide to GW sports

Junior forward MacKenzie Cowley makes a play for the ball during GW's loss to Drexel Friday afternoon. Dan Rich | Contributing Photo Editor

Junior forward MacKenzie Cowley makes a play for the ball during GW’s loss to Drexel Friday afternoon. Dan Rich | Contributing Photo Editor

This post was written by Hatchet reporter Marty Fenn.

The women’s soccer team (2-2-0) lost a tough contest to the Drexel Dragons (4-1-0) Friday on a muggy afternoon on the Mount Vernon Campus. It was a a back-and-forth contest filled with opportunities for both sides, but the Colonials couldn’t get on the board and lost 1-0.

Despite outshooting the Dragons 8-3 (including a 5-2 margin in shots on goal), Drexel claimed the lone tally on a goal in the box from forward Vanessa Kara.

“You can sort of boil it down to [Drexel] was better in the penalty box than we were,” said head coach Sarah Barnes. “It’s a disappointing loss.”

The Dragons got on the board with Kara’s left-footed finish six minutes into the second half. Just minutes after GW midfielder Nicole Belfonti hit the right post with a shot from outside of the box, Kara chased down a loose ball on the right wing and sprinted down the sideline. A swift cut to the inside freed Kara in the box, and a couple quick touches gave her the look she needed to get the eventual game-winning goal.

“[Kara] is a good player and a good dribbler, and she’s fast,” said Barnes. “We have a numerical advantage [at the back], but I thought we dove in; we were undisciplined and impatient.

“She should not have had that look, but I also thought [redshirt sophomore goalie] Miranda [Horn] should have done better on it, frankly. But it’s a full team breakdown there.”

The Colonials certainly had their chances. In the seventh minute, senior midfielder Kristi Abbate won a free kick on the right side for the Colonials. Senior defender Brooke Stoller, one of two Colonial position players to play all 90 minutes, played a beautiful ball into the box toward junior forward MacKenzie Cowley. Cowley ran onto the ball in stride, but ultimately failed to even get a touch. Similar missed opportunities came and went time and time again as GW failed to get an adequate touch on multiple balls in the box.

“We’re getting good numbers,” Stoller said. “We usually finish at least one of those chances, but hopefully we can work on it in practice and it will go better against Georgetown.”

The game could have easily swung in the Dragons’ favor later on in the first half, when the ball came to Drexel forward Iman Walker in the box. Walker settled off of her chest and turned nicely around the Colonial defense, but Horn came off of her line to make a fantastic save.

Belfonti led GW with three shots, including two on goal and the chance that caromed off the post at the beginning of the second half. Abbate was particularly dynamic, streaking up and down the wings and opening up the middle for the forwards Cowley and freshman Sofia Pavon. Another Colonial chance came after Abbate played a dummy through her legs and blasted down the left side, pivoting and firing a right-footed shot from outside the box. The keeper barely got a touch, tipping the ball over the bar.

“With our formation that we’re playing, the outside midfielders are probably one of the most important positions because we create the depth for the team,” said Abbate. “Our forwards have so much speed… we need to try to take advantage of that more.”

Abbate also spoke on the back and forth nature of the game and the difficulty in trying to maintain position and focus.

“You can’t think about it, you have to make sure you’re getting back after you push forward. We’re going to do a better job of finishing those chances that we have.”

The Colonials are in store for a tough matchup as they square off at Georgetown next Thursday. The Hoyas were initially ranked in the preseason top 25, but have fallen off in a 3-2-0 start to the year.

“We didn’t do a good enough job of creating clear scoring opportunities,” said coach Barnes. “It’s going to be a matter of being more disciplined and finishing those chances.”

Kickoff is set for 4 p.m. at the Georgetown campus.

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Thursday, Sept. 3, 2015 1:44 p.m.

Men’s basketball season schedule released

Then-junior Joe McDonald plays in front of an ESPN banner during a game last season. The Colonials will host three, and play in four, games broadcast on ESPN Networks this season. Dan Rich | Hatchet Photographer

Then-junior Joe McDonald plays in front of an ESPN banner during a game last season. The Colonials will host three, and play in four, games broadcast on ESPN Networks this season. Dan Rich | Hatchet Photographer

The men’s basketball season officially begins in 70 days. Now, fans know exactly what they’ll be watching.

The Colonials’ full schedule was released Thursday following the release of the Atlantic 10 Conference’s men’s basketball schedule. Television broadcast information was also released, and GW will play a minimum of 17 games on national television, the most in program history.

“We are seeing the continued trend of widespread, and hard earned, increased national and international exposure for GW, our men’s basketball program, and GW Athletics,” athletic director Patrick Nero said in a release. “Our team has worked tirelessly to prepare for this season, and our students and fans have shown that there is no better atmosphere for college basketball than a sold-out Smith Center. We are excited to continue to show a global audience the best that GW has to offer.”

When the season schedule was announced last year, the Colonials were slated for at least 14 nationally televised games. They wound up playing four more in the A-10 Tournament and NIT. The team has had more games broadcast on national television each year since none were in 2010-11.

The Colonials will begin the A-10 season on Jan. 3 at home against Fordham. Of GW’s 18 conference games, 14 will be on national television. The average A-10 men’s basketball team will play just over 12 games on national television throughout the regular season, or 107 total, an A-10 record.

GW never has more than two consecutive road games, though they play up to four in a row at home. The Colonials play Seton Hall, Penn State, Rutgers and Saint Peters from Dec. 2-19, all in the Smith Center.

When the team visits DePaul on Dec. 22, it will be just their second true away game of the season.

The most difficult stretch for the team last season came in February, a month which included a four-game losing streak. This year the hardest section is bumped up slightly: between Jan. 15 and Feb. 6 GW plays home games against Rhode Island, Richmond and Davidson and away games at Dayton, George Mason and VCU.

“After back-to-back postseason appearances and consecutive 20-plus win seasons, we feel as though this group is our strongest yet,” head coach Mike Lonergan said in a release. “We are excited to show our students, fans, alumni and recruits all of the hard work that we’ve put in, and the maturation of this team with a goal of accomplishing some special things all season and especially in March.”

The non-conference schedule was released in July, slating the season-opener for Nov. 13 against Lafayette after a Nov. 7 exhibition game against Gannon.

Full schedule and television information is available here.

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Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2015 12:13 a.m.

Volleyball squanders two-set lead in home opener

Freshman outside hitter Hanna Justesen sets up her teammates in Tuesday night's five-set loss to No.11 Oregon. Andrew Goodman | Hatchet Staff Photographer

Freshman outside hitter Hanna Justesen sets up her teammates in Tuesday night’s five-set loss to No.11 Oregon. Andrew Goodman | Hatchet Staff Photographer

Through its first four games this season, No. 11 Oregon had lost just one set. As the teams headed to the locker rooms in the Colonials’ home-opener Tuesday night, GW was up two sets to zero.

The Colonials (1-3) looked sharp and aggressive in those first two frames, poised to take down the first ranked opponent to visit the Smith Center since 2012. But a dip in GW offense and costly errors allowed the Ducks (5-0) back in it, and ultimately led to a hard-to-swallow, five-set GW defeat (25-20, 25-22, 16-25, 15-25, 11-15).

“I think we just got comfortable,” junior middle blocker Chidima Osuchukwu said. “We thought we had it in the bag and we have to realize that teams aren’t just going to hand it to us. We have to work for every single point and I think we just thought we already had it.”

Osuchukwu, named Atlantic 10 Player of the Week on Monday, guided her team with 18 kills and a season-high 10 blocks. But GW’s .196 team attack percentage on the night was not enough to overcome Oregon’s onslaught in the final three sets, in which the Ducks had an attack percentage of .316 or greater in each.

The two teams went toe-to-toe in the first set, where neither team ever led by more than four points. Osuchukwu led the set with seven kills but got help from senior middle blocker Maggie Skjelbred, who had four kills in the frame and 10 on the night.

Senior setter Jordan Timmer who had 13 assists in the first set, also played big for the Colonials all night, singlehandedly out assisting the entire Oregon roster 53-52.

But veteran leadership in the first two sets was also greatly supplemented by the play of GW newcomers. Freshman outside hitter Kelsey Clark led the Colonials with six kills in the second set, and closely trailed Osuchukwu with 15 on the night.

“Kelsey is a great outside [hitter] and she really knows how to work the ball,” Osuchukwu said. “As we continue to grow as a team the new people will continue to play integral parts.”

But despite a stellar first two sets from the Colonials, the Ducks came back with all they had. Oregon converted 20 kills in set three, the most by either team in a single set on the night, to GW’s 11. The Ducks would also tally 21 digs to GW’s 16 in the frame.

And while Oregon offense propelled a third set victory, GW recorded a whopping 13 errors in the fourth, allowing the Ducks win the set by 10 points on just 8 kills.

“You need to understand as the team that’s up 2-0 that that team is going to throw everything they’ve got at you and try to see if something’s going to work,” head coach Amanda Ault said. “We knew that, but we just don’t take care of that very much. Right now we don’t do a very good job at adapting to what’s happening.”

The Colonials looked more prepared in the fifth-set tie breaker, committing only three errors and posting eight kills to Oregon’s nine. GW would come back to tie the set after going down 3-0 early, but the Ducks ran away with it late to put away the home team 15-11.

GW is dealt its second consecutive five-set loss, both of which the Colonials led two sets to none, but Ault said she still considered Tuesday night’s match an improvement.

“We took a step forward tonight because I felt like there was fight in the fifth [set], whereas it wasn’t there on Saturday,” she said. “And so although it’s a tough loss and really hard to understand right now, we’ve just got to keep making progress like that.”

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MacKenzie Cowley hung back as her coach and teammates answered questions about the season, how the defense would fill in for graduated stars, who would handle certain duties during set pieces, how certain injuries were progressing.

But she was the woman of the hour. Cowley scored the Colonials’ first two goals in a 3-0 win over ECU in the team’s home opener Sunday afternoon.

“It’s a really good start for me,” Cowley said. “My goal is to score as much as I can for this team so to come out for this first game with two, at home, is a really big start for me. And it gives me a lot of confidence.”

Cowley said that her goal is to score a double-digit number of goals this season. After netting GW’s lone goal in the team’s loss to Cal State Fullerton a week before, Cowley got her second of the season off a through ball from senior Kristi Abbate.

“That was our game plan, to make a run out wide and have them play it over the top,” Cowley said. “I saw the opportunity. Sarah [Barnes] was right! It was right on there and then I just made sure I took my touch inside towards the goalie and then just scored from there.”

Her third came off a corner kick, which Cowley said she’d been practicing “forever.” She positioned herself in front of the goalie and lept for the ball, following through on her header to bypass ECU’s goalie, who got a hand on the ball but fumbled it.

The Colonials took advantage of set pieces, getting Cowley’s goal off a corner and their final score off a penalty kick taken by senior Emily Brown.

GW took 10 corners in the game, handled primarily by senior Brooke Stoller. Though Stoller is tall and could be an asset in the box, as several of her shots sailed over the heads of her teammates, Barnes said that she will receive most of the corner-kicking duties due to her technical skills.

Redshirt sophomore Miranda Horn started in goal over Ellen Conway. She wasn’t tested frequently, as the Pirates struggled to convert possession time into legitimate chances, but was always in the right place when she was. Horn collected three saves before Conway came in in the 76th minute. Conway closed out the shutout with one save.

Despite the lack of senior defender Brooke Bean, who was injured in the Fullerton game, the backline was solid. Barnes said she’d scouted ECU’s attack as the team’s primary weapon and was pleased with the shutout. GW tallied six shots while ECU launched nine, but both teams had four on goal.

“The back four were spectacular I thought,” Barnes said. “The goalkeeping was strong and honestly I thought the two holding mids in front really made their day a lot easier as well.”

Starting along with Abbate, Horn, Cowley, Brown and Stoller were freshmen Sofia Pavon, Mia Barreda and Dani Frese, sophomore Annika Johnson, junior Lina Proska and redshirt senior Nicole Belfonti.

Players switched lines and sides, and Barnes said that she plans to swap players frequently to keep the team fresh throughout the season and to play the best lineup against each scouting report.

“We’re trying to make sure that we’re maximizing so that when we get to the NCAA Tournament we’re striking on all cylinders rather than being depleted and losing power and all that stuff,” Barnes said. “So it’s really about trying to use the depth to your advantage.”

The Colonials next game comes on Friday, again at home, when the team takes on Drexel at 3 p.m.

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Saturday, Aug. 29, 2015 12:21 a.m.

Men’s soccer falls flat in season opener

Senior midfielder Oliver De Thier fights for a ball during GW's 2-1 loss to American Friday afternoon. Dan Rich | Contributing Photo Editor

Senior midfielder Oliver De Thier fights for a ball during GW’s 2-1 loss to American Friday afternoon. Dan Rich | Contributing Photo Editor

Offensive woes of the past haunted men’s soccer in its season opener at the Kuykenstrong D.C. College Cup Sunday, where despite striking first, the team dropped a 2-1 decision to American.

The Colonials, who registered only two shots on goal in 90 minutes of play against the Eagles, struggled to find the net all day despite creating a handful of chances. Senior forward Phillip McQuitty was fouled in the box midway through the first half, allowing junior forward Garrett Heine to net GW’s lone goal on a penalty kick.

“Three forwards are injured right now so we are asking a lot of Phil [McQuitty] and Ross [Higgins] who played up there, so yeah we’ve got to get everybody healthy,” said head coach Craig Jones. “I think we created some chances today, but it wasn’t enough.”

Three out of four players listed as forwards on the team’s roster, senior Jonny Forrest, junior Alex Portela and freshman Dylan Lightbourn, did not play.

GW was able to fend off early scoring chances from American, more through sheer might than finesse. The Colonials drew four yellow cards in the first frame.

The action was back-and-forth for the majority of the half before McQuitty was able to break free near the top of the Eagles’ 18. Taken down hard by an American defender, McQuitty drew the foul in the penalty area and Heine tucked away the penalty in the bottom right corner.

Heine’s play was an encouraging show of confidence. Jones said that the junior had made it known that he wanted the ball in a penalty kick situation. By making good on his promise, Heine impressed his coach.

“I thought Garrett played well, he’s always a threat,” Jones said. “We missed about six penalties last year and before the game he said he wanted one if he got it and he stepped and scored, he had the courage to do that.”

But American responded with speed in the 32nd minute when a ball through the middle of the field found junior forward Kibu Mbaluku, who knotted the score at one with a slick.

American brought similar offensive pressure in the second half and GW had little with which to counter. Junior forward Joe Iraola’s close-range goal gave the Eagles the game winner in the 70th minute.

Despite the one-goal loss, freshman starting goalkeeper Thor Anne Hofs made seven saves for the Colonials in 90 minutes of play while American goalkeeper Dylan Hobert registered one.

“I thought [Hofs] was awesome today,” Jones said. “We’ll probably rest him on Sunday and switch him up with Jack [Lopez], who’s had a great preseason, but I think we might have a similar situation [as last year] because we have two guys who are very very close in skill.”

The Colonials, who scored just 17 goals in 17 games in last season’s disappointing 6-9-2 finish, will need to find a way to break through on the scoreboard to contend with more formidable teams on the 2015 slate.

Health may be an issue early in the season, but Heine was unconcerned and said that the team needs to focus on playing together, regardless of who is on the field.

“We’re just trying to be more aggressive and capitalize on our chances,” he said. “More crosses, more runs, more shots, more coordination between our midfield line and our forward line.”

The Colonials will search for the first victory of the year against Howard Sunday at 5 p.m. in their second and final game at the Kuykenstrong D.C. College Cup hosted by George Mason University.

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The Colonials prepare to return a serve in a game last season. | Hatchet File Photo

The Colonials prepare to return a serve in a game last season. | Hatchet File Photo

On the heels of a Championship game appearance at the Atlantic 10 Tournament last season, volleyball secured its best ranking in the A-10 preseason poll since 2003 with a second place finish, the league announced Monday.

Defending champions Dayton finished first with 88 total points in the poll of the conference’s 10 head coaches. GW garnered 79 total points, followed by Saint Louis with 74.

GW finished 22-8 overall and 11-3 in A-10 play last year, but the team’s season ended in the A-10 Championship match at the hands of the Flyers. It was GW’s first trip to the Championship game since 2002.

Dayton received eight of the 10 first-place votes, while two voters spared the Colonials the always-the-bridesmaid treatment by awarding theirs to GW.

The Colonials did beat Dayton during the 2014 regular season, and return 10 letterwinners including league first-teamer Chidima Osuchukwu from that team. This year’s squad will be the largest, at 16, that head coach Amanda Ault has had to work with during her time at GW and should be a contender for the conference title.

The full rankings are below:
(first-place votes in parenthesis)
1. Dayton (8) – 88
2. George Washington (2) – 79
3. Saint Louis – 74
4. Rhode Island – 58
5. VCU – 57
6. Duquesne – 48
7. George Mason – 30
8. Davidson – 23
9. Fordham – 21
10. La Salle – 17

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Then-freshman Yuta Watanabe drives toward the paint in GW's game against Virginia last November. The Colonials second game of the home-and-home agreement will be broadcast on ESPN2 as ESPN's first men's college basketball game of the 2015-16 season. Hatchet File Photo.

Then-freshman Yuta Watanabe drives toward the paint in GW’s game against Virginia last November. The Colonials second game of the home-and-home agreement will be broadcast on ESPN2 as ESPN’s first men’s college basketball game of the 2015-16 season. Hatchet File Photo.

The Worldwide Leader is making The Smith Center its first stop of the upcoming men’s college basketball season, ESPN announced Tuesday.

ESPN’s College Hoops Tip-off Marathon team will be in Foggy Bottom to broadcast the men’s team’s game against the University of Virginia on Monday, November 16 at 7:30 p.m. on ESPN2.

It will be the first men’s game broadcast in the two-day event. The first overall game is a women’s match-up between the University of Connecticut and Ohio State at 5:30 on Monday.

“ESPN’s decision to broadcast our showdown with Virginia as the first men’s game during their 24 hours of basketball is further proof of the extraordinary atmosphere created at the Smith Center during our home games,” athletic director Patrick Nero said in a release. “Our fans, Colonial Army and students do a tremendous job supporting our student-athletes, and the team’s success shows that. We are thrilled to once again welcome ESPN to the Smith Center for what will be an exciting night for our fan base.”

Including the postseason, the Colonials played ten games broadcast on ESPN networks during the 2014-15 season.

GW’s matchup with Virginia, a projected top-ten team, will be the second game of a home-and-home agreement signed before last season. The Colonials lost 59-42 on the road in Charlottesville last November.

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GW athletes will continue to sport the Nike swoosh on their uniforms for at least three more years after the athletic department extended its contract with the company to be its exclusive official outfitter by that length, the department said in a release Monday.

Nike has provided footwear, uniforms, equipment and apparel to all of GW’s varsity sports teams since 2012. GW had never had an official outfitter before that deal was reached.

“The swoosh makes an iconic statement, and our partnership allows us to continue to provide our student-athletes with the equipment, apparel and footwear resources necessary to perform at the highest levels,” athletic director Patrick Nero said in a release.

College athletic departments have embraced the practice of partnering with apparel providers, most notably the University of Oregon and Nike and the University of Maryland and Under Armour. The equipment benefits the schools, and the exposure benefits the brands.

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Cross one off the men’s basketball team’s depth chart at forward for this season – forward Ryan McCoy will not play in 2015-16, an athletics department spokesman confirmed Thursday.

McCoy graduated in May at the end of his junior year but has elected not to use his final year of eligibility to play as a graduate student walk-on. McCoy majored in business administration while at GW.

McCoy averaged .4 points and .3 rebounds in 3.5 minutes per game as a Colonials reserve last season.

GW’s frontcourt should get a boost from Wake Forest transfer Tyler Cavanaugh, who sat out last season but is eligible this year. Cavanaugh and Kevin Larsen should play the majority of minutes up front, aided at times by the versatile Yuta Watanabe who plays a number of positions for the Colonials.

McCoy’s absence may mean a few more minutes for forward Matt Cimino in his sophomore season. Cimino played 2.0 minutes per game as a freshman but, especially if he is able to bulk up in the weight room, could develop into a more significant presence for the team after a very strong high school career.

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Cross country and track head coach Terry Weir. Hatchet File Photo

Cross country and track head coach Terry Weir. Hatchet File Photo

A recruiting class of 22 runners will join the cross country and track program this fall, head coach Terry Weir announced Wednesday.

The group of five men and 17 women is the largest individual class the program has ever recruited, aided by the reinstatement of track last year. The athletes will compete in cross country, indoor and outdoor track.

“With this class size we’ve added some much-needed depth to both the men’s and women’s rosters,” Weir said in a release. “I believe a number of these incoming freshmen will make an immediate impact within the Atlantic 10 this year. We are very excited about the Class of 2019.”

Standouts in the men’s class include Andrew Weber, who qualified for the IHSA State Finals as an individual in the 3200m as a senior at St. Ignatius Prep in Chicago, and Sawyer Bilton, who won conference, county, district and regional championships in the 800m as a student at Boca Raton Community High School in Boca Raton, Fla. Bilton placed fourth overall in the Florida State Championship in the 800m, in which he runs a personal best of 1.55.

Milton Academy (Mass.) cross country and track captain Connor James, Reading, Mass. native Aiden Kolenik and Max Del Rio out of Compton, Calif. round out the incoming runners on the men’s side.

The women’s group is headlined by Philadelphia’s Taryn Millbourne, last year’s Pennsylvania Independent Schools Athletic Association State Outdoor Individual Champion in the 200m. She also won three consecutive Friends School league titles as an individual in the 100m, and two in the 200m.

For longer distances, Athens High School (OH) product Madison Yerke comes to GW after a high school career in both cross country and track on one of her state’s best teams. Athens placed fifth in cross country at the Ohio State Championship meet in 2015 and won four straight conference championships from 2011-14. Yerke was the individual district champion and regional runner up in cross country, where her personal best 5K is 18:39, in 2014 and is a two-time conference champion in the 1600m, which she has run in 5:02.88.

Annapolis, Md. native Rachel Hughen, who runs cross country, sprinter Kennedy Whittington-Cooper (Westchester, N.Y.), distance runners Mikaela Muhall (Mission Viejo, Calif.) and Kelli Stetson (San Diego) and sprinter Gianna Smith (Media, Penn.) should all make an impact on the team in their first years.

The women also get additional depth from Lauren Anderson (Woburn, Mass.), Cassidy Elkins (San Francisco), Halley Brown (Arlington, Tenn.), Lauren Battle (Cleveland), Regan McAllister (Niceville, Fla.), Lesley Fatica (Aurora, Colo.), Brigid Prial (Warwick, N.Y.), Abby Llanos (Danbury, Conn.), Caroline Haskins (Cambridge, Mass.) and Camille Sery-Ble (Florham Park, N.J.).

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