RICHMOND, Va. – Reigning Colonial Athletic Association Rookie of the Week Cristin Granados (pictured) is already making a case for next week's award after netting the game-winner off a corner kick with 2:38 left to give VCU a 1-0 win over visiting UNC Wilmington Friday night at Sports Backers Stadium.
With time winding down in the second half, junior Breiana White sent a cross in front of net but UNC Wilmington goalkeeper Caitlin Hunter, who made nine saves on the night, punched the ball away to keep any VCU players from having a chance. However, on the ensuing corner, Granados' offering slid into the lower left post and gave VCU a 1-0 lead with less than three minutes to play.
In addition to their late game heroics, the Rams once again made their presence felt defensively as VCU has not allowed a goal in its last three matches, while extending its scoreless streak to an impressive 353 minutes.
"Our players have been playing well for a while now, and that last piece is to get the result," said VCU Co-Head Coach Tiffany Roberts Sahaydak. "I'm so proud of this team because no one let their head down tonight because they know we've been playing good soccer. They've been sticking to the plan and they believe in what we are doing. It was just a matter of time before we were scoring goals."
VCU came out firing but couldn't find the net early as five of the Rams' seven shots in the first half were on goal.
Freshman Maren Johansen had a trio of looks inside the box just two minutes into the match but Hunter held strong in the net. The Seahawks' keeper made a save on Johansen's first strike but she fired back the rebound, which nailed the crossbar, before her third attempt was blocked.
Hunter came up with another save six minutes later on a shot from just inside the box by senior Heather Hovanesian, as VCU was on the attack early. Hovanesian had second look in the 23rd minute following a cross by junior Carly Edgcomb, but Hunter made another save.
Sophomore Courtney Conrad, who scored two goals in last Sunday's win at Towson, fired a shot on frame less than two minutes later but Hunter was again there to knock it away and keep the Rams off the board as both teams battled to a scoreless first half tie.
The Rams continued their intensity after intermission as Granados sent a pass to Conrad on the run in the 54th minute but Conrad's shot just missed the top of the net on the near side. Johansen later took a cross from junior Aisha Allen at the 64:28 mark, but Hunter made a stop on a low shot from about 10 yards out.
UNC Wilmington's Laura Wilson launched a shot toward the top of the net with 18 minutes to go in regulation but VCU goalkeeper Kristin Carden punched the ball over the crossbar for her only save of the night.
Granados again took a feed from Hovanesian, maneuvered around a Seahawks defender and fired a look that narrowly missed the lower left corner with a just over five minutes to play. VCU's pressure would eventually pay off as Granados converted the game-winning score off a corner kick with time winding down.
"Cristin is a special player with a lot of composure and she's able to settle the game down for us," Roberts Sahaydak said. "It's nice having a player like that on the field with that kind of experience, and can help us keep playing the way we want to play, which is a possession style. I love that she was rewarded with a goal at the end. She deserved it."
The Rams held a 17-8 advantage in shots, including a 9-1 margin in shots on goal.
VCU concludes its weekend home stand on Sunday, Oct. 9 with a 1 p.m., match against Georgia State at Sports Backers Stadium.