The Longwood women’s soccer team has changed their warm-up routine and their pregame music, all in an attempt to overcome a series of slow starts that have plagued the Lancers through their first three games. The Lancers (2-1-1) solved the problem Wednesday evening, when for the first time this season they struck first and roared to a dominant 4-0 victory over visiting VMI at the Athletics Complex.
After playing catch-up in each of their first three games this season, the Lancers hit the gas from the opening whistle against VMI and never let off. Longwood outshot the Keydets 25-2 for the game and registered only the program’s third four-goal win in the past four seasons.
Sophomore Amanda Spencer provided the offensive spark with a goal in the 14th minute to set off the firestorm the Lancers would set to the VMI net. Spencer’s goal was emblematic of the Lancers’ aggressive game plan, as the 5-3 midfielder weaved her way through the heart of the Keydet defense, split two defenders at the penalty hash and received a well-placed pass from Olivia Colella. With the defenders trailing in her wake, Spencer easily won the one-on-one matchup with VMI goalkeeper Sydnie Bligh and flicked the go-ahead score into the lower right corner.
For all the adjustments to their pregame routine, it wasn’t a new warm-up that helped the Lancers. It was simply a matter of attitude.
“I think we were all getting frustrated with how we weren’t coming out hard in the previous games,” said Spencer, who despite leading Longwood in goals as a freshman found herself scoreless through her first three games. “This game, we just wanted to make a statement right away, and I think we did that.”
The Lancers would score again 12 minutes later to take a comfortable 2-0 lead into halftime before scoring twice more in the second frame.
“It definitely gave us the confidence that we could keep scoring if we kept working that hard,” Spencer said.
With that confidence in hand, Longwood began firing at the VMI net like a shooting range, hammering 12 of their 25 shots on goal. Four of those found the net with goals from Spencer, Christina Corbin, Colella and Bridget Bergquist.
All four of those goals came inside the penalty box, including the 26th-minute score by Christina Corbin, who showcased her speed by chasing down a loose ball in the corner of the goal area and lacing it into the back of the net. The two second-half goals both came off deflected shots, as Samantha Phillips’ attempt in the 47th minute ricocheted off the post directly to Colella, and Corbin’s fast break shot in the 74th minute hit off the keeper’s hands right to the feet of Bergquist.
Longwood’s 25 shots were the team’s most since a 27-shot outpouring in a scoreless draw against Radford on Oct. 18, 2012.
“We’re getting closer to finding our form, and that’s our goal in the short term,” said Longwood head coach Todd Dyer. “Tonight was very positive because we earned our first home win and shutout.”
The shutout was credited as a combined effort by goalkeepers Hailey Machen and Maria Kirby. Kirby registered the Lancers’ only save, as VMI did not attempt a shot until the final four minutes of the game. On the season, those two have combined to allow just 0.95 goals per game.
The comfortable lead allowed Longwood to play its entire roster, giving the starters a rest in preparation for the upcoming Sept. 9 home showdown against Virginia Tech. Spencer noted that the 4-0 blowout will pay dividends going forward, and not just in keeping her legs fresh.
“It boosts our confidence, getting our first win at home. It’ll get our heads right for when we play Virginia Tech next week at home.”
Longwood will now have six days to prepare for the Hokies, who head to Farmville next Tuesday for the 7 p.m. matchup. But as Dyer noted, the team’s focus has already shifted.
“Starting tomorrow,” he said, “it’s all about Virginia Tech.”