Following what was an abrupt end to last years’ campaign – an unexpected defeat in the first round of the Big South tournament at the hands of USC Upstate – Longwood women’s soccer has brought significant depth and firepower to a team already considered a Big South conference contender over the last few years. However, this time around, their sights are set on a different kind of ending.
There’s one milestone 26-year head coach Todd Dyer has yet to reach since founding the program in 1993, a milestone he’s relentlessly worked on and come close to achieving in recent years – winning their first Big South championship.
Dyer recruited 11 freshmen this year, adding depth to his squad who has seen a number of significant injuries plague them over the last few years, including early this season. He noted the team’s scoring output to support the defensive side – which he notes has been lacking in depth – as an area he believes kept them out of winnable games late in the season. Though he’s pleased with the pieces he’s assembled, he’s trying to find the combinations and systems that work best through the non-conference schedule.
“Our biggest challenge right now is that we’re pretty thin on our back line,” Dyer said. “We need to figure out, with that being the case, how we can make it work with three defenders and how we can make it work with four defenders.”
He continued, “We need a little bit more offensive output until we’re perfect defensively, and I don’t know if we can ever count on that.”
Junior defender and captain Carrie Reaver, who was named Big South Freshman of the Year in 2017, brought up another area of concern – staying healthy.
“In the past we’ve had some unfortunate injuries throughout the season but I think this year if we can keep it pretty healthy, we have a lot of really talented players and we’ll have that depth we need towards the end of the season going into the (postseason),” she said.
The depth of this years squad helps, considering the amount of time players have missed due to injuries over the years. With this in mind, Dyer believes every player from top to bottom on the team can fill shoes if need be. With a few lingering bodies recovering from injuries currently, the non-conference slate helps with finding a working rhythm on the field.
“Bottom line, it’s still early, we’re going to try things, and by conference play, we hope to have it figured out and we hope to be fully healthy,” Dyer said.
Dyer naturally expects the team to contribute collectively across the board. He believes if each player puts themselves under the spotlight and steps up in all aspects of their games, then team will be seen as "special".
“They need to take collective ownership of what their season is going to be like, and within that, we need personalities and characters to rise to the occasion,” Dyer said. “We need that collective ownership, but we need individuals to really shine and know their personality and their character against good players and good teams.”