The Spiders had a six-game losing streak coming into the final match of the season against VCU, but records aren't usually relevant in rivalry games.
Richmond’s soccer season came to a close with a 3-2 victory on senior night. The Spiders will not be playing in the A-10 Conference Tournament.
“This is the championship that we can play for,” coach Peter Albright said. “In major professional soccer there are many trophies that you can compete for, and this was the last trophy that was there for us. We really wanted to end the season on a high note.”
Albright said that he had woken up every Sunday morning for the 20 seasons he had coached and wondered what he was going to say in the pregame speech, but this one had been trickier than normal for him. He said he knew that the emotional tone he presented had the potential to either be ignored or resonate on the players and the outcome.
“Today I talked about how our reserves play in training," he said. "They’re not happy about having to be on the second team and wear the pennies, but they just come out and grind. They fight hard, and they’re a little bit angry, so they compete. Most of them have been on that team at one point or another, so I told them that that’s how you need to play a championship game against VCU.”
Richmond began in a defensive formation because of multiple injuries throughout the season, but a lack of offense early pushed them to revert back to their normal 3-4-3 in an effort to create some scoring opportunities. Neither team held possession of the ball well the first twenty minutes, but VCU was the first to get on the board with a ricochet shot from freshman Kelly Graves in the 14th minute.
From there, intensity exponentially increased and fouls racked up for both teams.
A scramble in front of the goal right before halftime finished with sophomore Olivia Aha poking in the equalizer off of an assist from junior Lindsay Egbers.
In the second half, Richmond and VCU traded goals. The Spiders took the lead for the first time in a three-part sequence when freshman Ashley Gross lobbed a ball to sophomore Lexi Prillaman. Prillaman was then able to head the ball and place it for Egbers, who headed the ball into the back of the net.
VCU answered with a goal of its own, and the potential of overtime loomed. With less than ten minutes remaining in the game, Egbers sent a long ball to senior Ashley Riefner, who was sitting alone about 30 yards from the goal. Riefner brought it down with one touch and beat a VCU defender one-on-one before firing the ball off, scoring the winning goal and sealing the game.
“(Lindsay and I) have a really great connection," Riefner said. I knew that I had some space behind me, so I called for the ball and she sent it over. Then I trapped it with my chest and volleyed it in.”
The Spiders maintained control of the last seven minutes as they whittled the clock down. When the final whistle blew, an overflow of emotions came from the players as they said teary goodbyes to the seniors and celebrated their victory.
For Albright, the game was never about winning but more about playing in a way that exhibited the pride, energy and character of the women on the team.
“The great thing about soccer is that on any given day if you take care of the ball and take your chances you can beat a team that maybe has a better record,” Albright said. “We’re really proud of what we accomplished today.”
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