By Dave Utnik/News & Messenger
A searing afternoon sun and a desperate opponent did everything they could to wear down the Northern Virginia Majestics on Sunday afternoon.
But Colleen Deegan and her teammates refused to give in.
They’d played too hard and too well to settle for anything less than a 1-0 victory against the Tampa Bay Hellenic.
“I could tell they were getting really frustrated,” Deegan said. “It’s a great feeling that we held on.”
With coach Jac Cicala imploring his players to “dig deep” against a relentless 93-degree heat, the Majestics accomplished two important things with their second shutout of the season: They avenged a 5-0 season-opening defeat in Florida and officially eliminated Tampa Bay from the W-League playoff race.
“We’ve had some results that we weren’t too happy with, but we never lost to a team really badly twice in a row,” Deegan said. “So to come back and play the way we did today is something to really be proud of.”
For the defense, that was especially true.
The Majestics have yielded more goals (21) than any team in the Atlantic Division, but each disappointing performance has been followed by one that revealed promise.
On Sunday at Hellwig Park, the Majestics played, perhaps, their most complete match of the season – rivaling their last-minute 1-0 victory over Hampton Roads on June 12.
Only this time, they scored quickly and relied on Princeton senior Aly Pont to safeguard the goal.
The Hellenic (4-4-1) couldn’t do anything with the 16 shots they attempted. Even a penalty kick by Sarah Chapman sailed wide of the right post in the 81st minute.
“I was there for the 5-0 loss,” defender Corinna Strickland said. “It was really tough to play in a game like that, so it feels really good to come back and show them that it was just a fluke. This shows the progress we’ve made.”
At 2-7, the Majestics aren’t in contention for the W-League Championship Series, but the improvement that’s taken place since May 15 was apparent at every position against Tampa Bay.
Ashley Johnson scored her second goal of the season in the eighth minute, tying forward Casey Vornadore for the team lead, and Woodbridge graduate Kristen Lybert earned her first W-League assist.
The early strike was more than enough for Pont, who stopped nine shots and earned her first W-League victory with the help of a tenacious defensive effort from Brittain Maas, Samara Stephen-Dowd, Breiana White, Deegan and Strickland.
“Right after we scored we were still trying to get another goal. We didn’t want to pack [the defense] in because we knew it was a long game,” Deegan said. “But towards the end we were just trying to keep the ball as far away from the goal as possible.”
The Majestics return home for their season finale next week on Saturday, July 17th, to face the Washington Freedom Futures at Hellwig Memorial Park in Manassas, Virginia. Match time is scheduled for 7:30PM.