Updated: Oct. 25, 2015 at 9:47 p.m.
As the minutes ticked away in double overtime Sunday afternoon in Fairfax, it looked as if women’s soccer, for the first time in a month and a half, would not come away with a victory.
But as they have time and time again in low-scoring, defensive-minded battles, the Colonials found a way to win.
This time, they found it off the boot of junior forward Mackenzie Cowley who forced home the sudden death game-winner in a 1-0 decision at George Mason, good for the team’s 11th straight victory and fifth consecutive shutout.
With under four minutes remaining, junior midfielder Lina Proska made a smart turn that led to a two-on-one GW attack. Proska dished it to Cowley, who beat a defender and drove the ball past the Mason keeper and into the back of the net.
“I remember Lina dribbling at the backline, and I was just making sure I stayed onside,” Cowley said. “I knew there was one girl back there and I knew Lina would pass me the ball so I just waited, and when she did, I just hit it in.”
While GW, which remains undefeated in Atlantic 10 play through eight games, was all smiles following the dramatic finish, it experienced a scary moment in the opening minutes of the first half.
Redshirt sophomore starting goalkeeper Miranda Horn came out to make a save and was kicked in the head by a Mason player trying to play the ball.
Horn, who is 12-4 with five shutouts on the year, was replaced by senior Ellen Conway and did not return to the game.
“It was obviously an unfortunate situation, you never want to see someone go down with a head injury,” head Coach Sarah Barnes said. “But I think Ellen has proven over the course of the year that she’s a very good goalkeeper and can make big plays.”
And that’s what Conway did all game, coming up big in multiple instances to keep her team in the closely-contested match and recording seven saves in her team’s 11th shutout performance of 2015.
The Patriots led the Colonials 3-2 in shots on goal in the first frame and, despite some good chances created by Cowley and Pavon, the match remained scoreless heading into halftime.
GW sustained some offensive pressure early in the second half, but as regulation time wound down it was the Patriots who turned up the heat.
Off a flurry of corner and free kicks, Conway was forced to make a number of big stops in the final minutes of regulation, holding off a barrage of point-blank shots by the Patriots to keep GW in it.
“Our whole goalkeeping staff is really, really good. We feel very confident, probably more so than any other team in the conference, that if something were to happen to Miranda, that Ellen could jump in,” Barnes said. “It’s a really strong goalkeeper unit, any of the three could be starting at any other school.”
Up until Cowley’s late-game heroics, the Colonials best chance of the day came midway through the second half when senior midfielder Nicole Belfonti rang a shot from the top of the box off the left post as the Mason keeper scrambled to keep it from crossing the line.
From there the Patriots caught fire, but after being stone-walled by Conway to end regulation, some momentum seemed to swing GW’s way at the start of overtime.
Both extra periods were back-and-forth, with each side eliciting gasps from the sizable alumni weekend crowd with their scoring chances.
“We didn’t really have a rhythm and then has the second half started to wear on we started to get a rhythm,” Barnes said. “And the good thing about how we play is once we get in our rhythm, which is also usually when teams start to tire a bit more, things start to open up.”
And finally, in the 106th minute of play, Cowley used that space to make a run, and found the back of the net to notch her team-high eighth goal on the season.
GW is now 4-0 in golden goal overtimes this year, and remains perfect in conference play with two games remaining before he A-10 Championship.
The Colonials look to keep their unblemished record intact Sunday at home against Saint Louis.
This post has been updated to reflect the following correction:
The Hatchet incorrectly reported GW’s record in overtime games this season. It is 4-0, not 6-0. We regret this error.