The opportunities were there. The goals were not. Despite winning the time of possession battle and outshooting Pittsburgh 10-8, Longwood dropped a hard-fought 1-0 matchup against the visiting Panthers Sunday afternoon at the Athletics Complex.
The game-winning goal came off the foot of Pittsburgh forward Hamish Law and was the lone score in a game that featured 18 combined shots, including several at point blank range. Longwood senior forward Zach Crandall and sophomore midfielder Finnlay Wyatt peppered the Pittsburgh goal with four shots apiece, but Panthers goalkeeper Braden Horton weathered the storm on the way to three saves and a shutout.
“It’s tough to come away with a defeat, but I think there’s a lot of lessons learned from that performance,” Longwood head coach Jon Atkinson said. “I really believe we had some good foundational things to build upon. For good parts of the game, I thought we were the better team, but unfortunately the game comes down to defining moments. We had some opportunities early on where we could have put our noses ahead, but unfortunately we didn’t take them. That’s the game.”
The Lancers created multiple opportunities on the offensive end, but their series of near misses were rendered moot by Pittsburgh’s lone goal in the 65th minute. That was the only fault committed by the Longwood defense and erased what was shaping up to be the second consecutive shutout by sophomore goalkeeper Carlos Canas, who opened the year by blanking VMI 1-0.
Canas directed his defensive unit to a dominant first half and single-handedly saved a pair of goals with diving stops in front of the net in the second half. Pittsburgh finally broke through at 64:44, however, when Law snuck past the defense, received a rolling cross from Cory Werth and drilled it past a diving Canas.
“We allowed Pitt to stay in the game, and I’ve got to give credit to Pitt. They’re a strong, physical team, and they took their opportunities when they came,” Atkinson said. “Something for us to hold on to is how we applied pressure in the last 20 minutes. It wasn’t to be today, but I’m still enthused about the work ethic and the desire that the guys showed today.”
Longwood took over the game after Pittsburgh’s goal and took five shots over the final 25 minutes to Pittsburgh’s one. The Lancers’ best chance came in the 73rd minute when Finnlay Wyatt drilled a pair of shots into the Panthers defense. Both were blocked, but freshman Steffan Hoogland followed the second with a header in front of the net that went directly into the hands of Pittsburgh keeper Braden Horton for his third and final save of the game.
“You have to take advantage of the opportunities you have,” said Longwood sophomore midfielder Dan Campos. “That’s what soccer’s about – you can play a wonderful game and get 10 big chances, but if you don’t score, you won’t win the game.”
While the Lancers failed to find the net, the fact that the Lancers created so many opportunities to score was enough to give Atkinson a positive outlook going forward.
“If we’re not making opportunities, then that would be a worry,” Atkinson said. “We do have ability on this team, and I think the cogs are slowly turning so we can turn these decent performances into really good performances. Hopefully this will be a step in the right direction.”
Longwood will only get stronger as the season progresses, as the Lancers have played their first two games without one of their top offensive weapons in senior forward Anthony Ugorji. The senior speedster was a Big South All-Preseason Team selection and led the Lancers in shots during the preseason.
“I think every game is a learning process for this team,” Campos said. “We’re playing better and better every time out. You’ve just got to take the positives and not focus so much on the negatives.”
Longwood’s next opportunity comes on Sept. 9 in a road game against Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va. The Lancers will then return to Farmville for a Sept. 13 home matchup against UNC Greensboro at 6 p.m.