After going 9-7 last season and losing to Appalachian State in the first round of the Mid-American Conference (MAC) tournament, Longwood field hockey set out to take the next step in the 2019 season.
With returning starters in key positions and Head Coach Iain Byers returning for an 11th season, it looked as though the Lancers would make good on their goal.
“Our expectation was to be competitive and to see progress on our performance. We lost four seniors so it was a little bit of an unknown with some of the freshmen coming in," he said.
The team has maintained a degree of competitiveness all season despite currently sitting at 6-8 (2-2 Mid-American), and losing four-out-of-five games. While not being in the position they want to be record wise, Byers said there are some positives to build on as the team begins their push towards the postseason.
“We lived up to our expectations, but in a different way than we thought. From a defensive point of view, we have been solid. That was unexpected," said Byers. "I think we would all say that we’ve underperformed a little in front of the goal from an attacking point of view. We’ve become more of a defensive team. We knew we were going to win games by a score of 2-0 or 2-1, it’s not going to be 7-0 and that’s fine.”
Byers also pointed to the teams increased strength of schedule this season as a partial culprit for the teams record thus far. However, he said the team's performance is "steadily improving".
With the MAC Tournament quickly approaching, Byers said if the team continues to have defensive success and evolves on the offensive end, then it will be in prime position.
The aforementioned Lancer defense is spearheaded, in part, by redshirt senior goalkeeper Katie Wyman. She was named MAC Defensive Player of the Week on October 15 and currently sits second in the nation in save percentage.
When asked about the biggest reason for her performance, she said she couldn't point out just one major aspect, but felt her experience only helps.
"This is my fifth year and third as a starter so I’ve been around the bush. Experience has helped me be consistent," Wyman said. "Also, the help I get from my defense. Everyone’s recovering. Everyone’s doing what we’re asking them to do defensively, and that’s just helping me out a lot because it’s less shots that I have to take.”
Ever since her junior season, she has held a goal to have an 85 percent save percentage or higher when the season ends; she currently is meeting that goal with an 85 percent mark (as of 10/17).
On the offensive end, junior forward Karly Harwood currently tops the squad with seven goals, with sophomore midfielder Sophia Loscher following closely behind with six.
Despite the team recently dropping an important in-conference road contest to Miami (OH), Wyman said consistency will be the key moving forward for the team to reach their goal of a MAC title.
"We just have to play a whole game and not one half versus the other. As long as we know that everyone tried their hardest and left it all on the field, I would feel comfortable leaving it like that," she said.
The team returns to Elizabeth Burger Jackson Field on October 22, as they take on the Billikens from Saint Louis University with a noon start.