RICHMOND, Va. – VCU women's soccer extended its nine-match unbeaten streak Friday night, defeating Colonial Athletic Association rival James Madison 2-0 at Sports Backers Stadium. Junior Karol Sanchez (pictured, below) and sophomore Courtney Conrad helped the Rams clinch the No. 2 seed in next week's CAA Tournament following a pair of second-half goals.
The Rams scored twice during a five-minute stretch late in the second half. Freshman Maren Johansen lifted a cross from the left wing before Sanchez scored her first career goal with a header into the far post to put VCU on top 1-0 in the 73rd minute.
Less than five minutes later, sophomore Rebecca Haislip, who entered the game moments earlier, sent a pass through the box to Conrad, who took two steps to her right and found the far post to give the Rams a two-goal advantage.
"The team is coming together at the right time and I think that's what matters most," said VCU Co-Head Coach Tiffany Roberts Sahaydak. "We're happy about our win tonight and to lock up that second seed. It can make a huge difference getting a [first round bye], so that was our goal today. But it's not over as our ultimate goal is to win a championship. We're happy about the win and we'll celebrate that but the work isn't done yet."
"We stepped on the field super excited to play," said senior defender Meaghan Dullea. "We never stopped playing and just kept it up and scored two goals to win the game."
In addition to finishing its chances offensively, VCU's defense has played a significant role in the Rams recent surge. After suffering seven, one-goal losses to start the year, VCU has settled in during the last month of the season reeling off nine-straight games without a loss, including six victories in conference play. The Rams have allowed just two goals during that stretch and have held an opponent scoreless seven times.
"We never put our heads down and we always made sure we had each other's backs and that we were staying together," Dullea said after VCU's early stretch of hard-luck losses. "We tried to lighten up and calm down when we were warming up and it seemed to help us out a lot. Once we started to get shutouts in the CAA, our confidence started building. In the back of our minds, we always said we would do whatever it took to keep the ball out of the back of the net."
After battling James Madison to a scoreless first half, VCU tried to get on the board less than 10 minutes into the second stanza when senior Molly Allen sent a sharp cross into the box, but it was just out of the reach of a sliding Bex Kunz and JMU goalkeeper Kate Courter made the snag.
Less than three minutes later, Conrad collected a loose ball after a free kick and fired a look that just missed the lower right post before Sanchez scored the game-winner shortly after.
James Madison's Sam Lofton had a look with 29 minutes left when she fired a shot off a corner kick but Rams junior goalie Kristin Carden made the save. Carden also made stops in the 61st and 76th minutes.
The Dukes held a slim 8-7 advantage in shots during the game, including a 4-1 margin in corner kicks.
VCU received a first round bye after clinching the No. 2 seed and will begin play in the CAA Tournament on Friday, Nov. 4 at William & Mary's Albert-Daily Field. The Rams will have to wait for the rest of the league to conclude regular season play on Sunday before learning their possible semifinal opponents.