RICHMOND, Va. – After a pair of solid defensive performances to start the season, VCU's offense finally got on track Friday night as the Rams defeated Marshall, 4-1, in its home opener at Sports Backers Stadium.
The Rams didn't stop after falling behind 1-0 early, responding with four unanswered goals to secure the win. Senior defender Meaghan Dullea, who had found the back of the net just once during her first three seasons at VCU, converted two penalty kicks to spark the Black and Gold attack. Newcomers Cristin Granados and Courtney Conrad scored their first career goals.
"The thing that I'm most proud about, which is very hard to do, is press and play well for 90 minutes," said Co-Head Coach Tiffany Roberts Sahaydak. "I do feel like we put together a very tough performance today. The fact that we went down 1-0 and were able to come back and score four goals makes me really proud."
The Rams had several looks early but couldn't capitalize as senior Heather Hovanesian fired two strikes, one of which was saved by a Marshall defender before the second nailed the left post. Sophomore Bex Kunz and Granados also had early threats with a pair of shots.
However, it was Marshall's Chelsey Maiden who was at the right place at the right time in the 21st minute giving the Herd a 1-0 lead. She collected a loose ball in the right side of the box, turned toward the middle and found the lower left of the net.
The lead wouldn't last long, though, as Granados netted the equalizer in the 31st minute. Conrad fired a strike on a breakaway but after a diving stop by Herd goalkeeper Betsy Haugh, Granados deposited the deflection into the left side of the goal.
Less than three minutes later, Dullea (pictured) converted the first of her two PK's on the night after Granados was taken down inside the box. The Rams would never trail the rest of the way.
"It felt pretty awesome," Dullea said of her two goals. "I had only scored one goal since I've been here – the last game of the season last year – so that was exciting to get a chance to practice my PK's for once.
"Overall, I'm really proud of us. We came off a little bit of a rough weekend because we could have done a lot better. I'm glad we took a step in the right direction, took a positive attitude and came out to play and took control."
Dullea added another PK in the 74th minute, this time into the right side past Haugh, to put the Rams on top 3-1. Azania later slipped a pass in the middle of the box to Conrad, who found the lower right of the net in the 80th minute.
"I knew going into the season that we were going to be a great attacking force," Roberts Sahaydak said. "We just needed a little bit of confidence and success to get the pressure off and we found that confidence today. We have a lot of players that are a threat this year and that's exciting. We gained some confidence after the Elon game because we were able to create some chances – actually putting the ball in the net was the missing detail. They went into today's game knowing that and we were able to overcome some of those challenges."
The Rams, who fired a season-high 18 shots in last Sunday's scoreless draw at Elon, followed that performance with 16 more Friday. The defense continued to shine, allowing just six shots against Marshall after three last weekend. The difference came in VCU's ability to finally finish its chances.
"It was a huge lift," Dullea added. "It felt like we had a wall against us since the season started, so once we scored we thought 'we can do this' and everyone was excited to score more, and we did."
VCU hosts Appalachian State in the final game of the VCU Invitational on Sunday, Aug. 28 at 2 p.m.