Crystal Dunn grabbed a hat trick in the first half to give the Washington Spirit a cushion that the Houston Dash couldn’t overcome in a 3-1 Dash loss at Maureen Hendricks Field on Saturday night.

The match was the fourth in 12 days for Houston, with three of those coming on the road. The Dash claimed seven of an available 12 points during that stretch to jump into a playoff place.

Dunn began her rampage with a brilliant individual run in the 28th minute, dribbling 40 yards through the Dash defense before beating goalkeeper Erin McLeod with a poked shot between her legs. McLeod left the match after colliding with Dunn on the goal, suffering a skin laceration. Bianca Henninger, who started XX games for the Dash while McLeod participated in the Women’s World Cup, stepped into goal.

Dunn had no mercy for the new goalkeeper, lobbing a shot over Henninger in the 36th minute after Diana Matheson chipped a pass into the box past the Dash defense. The league’s leading scorer added to her tally and completed her hat trick in the first minute of first half stoppage time, rising above her defender on a corner kick to head in her 12th goal of the season.

Prior to McLeod’s injury, both her and Spirit keeper Ashlyn Harris looked as if the night would be a goalkeeping clinic. Harris made a spectacular diving stop on a curling effort from Kealia Ohai in just the eighth minute of the match. McLeod made a sliding stop on Joanna Lohman in the 22nd minute, then just a minute later leapt to cover the upper corner on a Christine Nairn free kick.

The Dash had a renewed energy in the second half, and created several chances to try to claw back into the match. Harris came off her line to stop Melissa Henderson’s point blank shot just before the hour mark.

Houston broke through in the 74th minute, as Ohai beat a defender on the left flank and delivered a cross into the box. Jessica McDonald streaked into the box and flicked a header into the net, leaving Harris unable to react on the goal line.

With a goal back, the Dash still had a couple of chances to chip away the deficit or even tie the game in the remaining 15 minutes. Carli Lloyd, who had scored in each of her previous seven matches, struck a ball bouncing in the box after a corner kick only to have it cleared off the line by Spirit defender Estelle Johnson. Lloyd had another chance off a corner kick in the 81st minute, climbing over a defender at the back post to head a shot on frame only to have Harris bat it clear. Lloyd had one more chance in the final minute of the match as Ohai slid a pass across the box, but the resulting strike carried just wide of the net.

The match was also the final in the career of Dash defender Niki Cross, who subbed on in the 67th minute. Cross has played in every match for the Dash this season as the team has dealt with injuries and international absences. The 30-year-old was traded from Washington to the Dash last December, and was honored by the Spirit pregame.

The Dash still hold on to fourth place in the league standings, next playing host to Sky Blue FC at BBVA Compass Stadium on August 7.