Heading into last Friday’s matchup with the Vermont Catamounts, Longwood field hockey had won three consecutive games, not giving up a single goal in that span.
The Lancers put on another stellar defensive performance, holding Vermont scoreless until the fourth period and only giving up one goal the entire game. However, one goal was all the Catamounts needed to secure the win on a penalty corner from sophomore Clodagh Ferry.
Offensively, the Lancers did not execute as well as they had in previous games, being out-shot by Vermont 6-5, the one extra shot being the nail in the coffin.
“We really moved the ball well and (Vermont) were a very tactically-aware team and it was a very enjoyable game," head coach Iain Byers said. "We saw a lot better ball movement and more consistency from our players.”
He added, “It was always going to be a one-goal game and unfortunately it just went against us.”
The Lancers turned up the heat in the second half, taking all five of their shots on goal and barely missing the net late in the game. Byers noted they had talked about playing aggressively from the outset, considering their competition.
He said, “We talked about how it was going to be the heart that wins the game. To see improvement is what we’re after. The performance in it of itself was not as bad as a loss would seem.”
One player who has been instrumental in the team’s defensive performances is redshirt senior goalkeeper Katie Wyman. The goal she gave up in Friday's game was the only one she had given up in the past four games, a major reason why Longwood was on a three-game winning streak heading into their matchup with Vermont. Despite the one goal allowed, Wyman saved three other potential goals en route to another stellar performance.
“It’s a team effort. If it wasn’t for them, I’d have probably given up four or five goals in the last four games," Wyman said. "Even though we lost, the defense has been killing it. The forwards and midfielders are getting back and helping me out.”
She added, “Up front, we just need to take the opportunities that are given to us, and defensively, our outletting needs to be a little bit better."
Coming off the loss, the team had no time to sulk, because the fifth-ranked Virginia Cavaliers were coming to their house two days later.
Under the hot September sun, the Lancers battled the Cavs for four periods and held their own, but came away with a 3-1 loss. Virginia scored two goals early to head into halftime with a 2-0 lead and kept the pressure on Wyman all game long. While she finished with nine saves, the in-state rival proved to be too much in the end.
Byers commended the effort of the team, despite the loss.
“Our ability to withstand a lot of pressure from the number five ranked team in the country is no mean feat; there’s a lot of teams who’ve done a whole lot worse,” he said. “We knew it was going to be a game where a lot of pressure was going to be on us but we stuck to our game plan.”
Virginia outshot Longwood 20-7 in the contest, almost living on the Lancers' side of the field in the first half.
“It was something that was more than likely to happen. The shots we gave up were manageable shots. I think we’re okay with some of the shots we gave up because UVA is pretty solid,” said Byers.
Not only was it a contested game, but it was also a physical one. In the second period, junior midfielder Charlotte Wilm took a stick to the face while fighting for the ball. She would have to leave the game, but came back to score Longwood’s only goal of the contest late in the fourth period.
She said, “I feel like every time you get hurt, you become more aggressive and want that goal even more; and in the second half we played better as a team. It was a great team performance to get the ball to me.”
That fighting spirit personified Longwood’s effort in the second half, despite Virginia adding a goal, as the team continued to fight back and keep the pressure on, and it ultimately resulted in the goal to cut the deficit to two.
Moving into the team’s next contest against William and Mary, today, Wilm said there are areas the team can improve in.
“We could move the ball a little faster and connect better as a whole team. I feel like our performance today was already an improvement to the games before,” she said. “We’re taking steps in the right direction.”