Following a slow start to the season for the preseason number three ranked team in the Big South Conference, Longwood women’s soccer took a step in the right direction Sep. 25, dismantling Hampton 4-0 on awkward field conditions and played to a scoreless draw against Charleston Southern on Saturday, pushing their record to 3-5-1 on the season.
Before traveling to Hampton, head coach Todd Dyer said he solidified a comfortable formation after evaluating the team’s performance throughout non-conference play. The plan is to run a 4-3-3 formation; four defenders, three midfielders and three forwards, being two wingers and a striker.
However, it hasn’t been smooth sailing just yet. Though they have performed well and dealt a four-goal barrage against Hampton, there’s still technical aspects with the formation to be altered.
“We’re trying to address some areas where we need to be better,” Dyer said. “Bottom line, we have to do a better job at finishing our chances on the front end, and then on the back end we have to do a better job of not beating ourselves.”
The formation has settled in comfortably with junior Madison Hommey, who missed all of last season to a torn ACL. Now fully recovered, she noted they played in a few different formations throughout non-conference play, including a three-in-the-back look, in which could turn out to be beneficial in the latter half of the season.
“We’re able to play within the midfield, we can play out wide and have numbers up top, different things that just work for us, and we’re strong in the back,” Hommey said. “It’s also good to know if we come across an opponent that we need to change our formation, we have a little bit of experience where we played different ways and can change.”
Dyer uses “beating ourselves” in terms of handling set pieces defensively – corner kicks, goal kicks or free kicks – and transition moments. Earlier this season, Dyer had expressed concern on the defensive end regarding depth and strength, and although he’s found a solution to both, his focus shifts to tactical areas and avoiding mental lapses.
In terms of tactical areas, winning 50-50 headers in the air as well as on the ground has Dyer working on winning the physical game.
“The games that we’ve lost, even recently, it wasn’t that they broke us down defensively, we just didn’t deal with balls in the air very well, whether it’s a punt from the goalkeeper, a goal kick or a cross from a wide area, we're just not dealing with those situations defensively,” Dyer said. “You almost have to be perfect defensively, and we’re not, we’re far from it…I like our plan and our tactics because we’re not getting beaten in the flow of play.”
The Lancers win at Hampton put them at an even 1-1 in conference play ahead of Saturday’s clash against Charleston Southern.
If there’s any outlook the 26-year head coach has on the rest of the season, it's to go 1-0 every time they play.