As the seasons change and the temperature drops, the Longwood men’s soccer, women’s soccer and field hockey have all put a finishing sentence on their season long stories.
From the field hockey team winning its first MAC (Mid-American Conference) tournament game, to the women’s soccer team matching conference-leader High Point punch-for-punch and holding them to a scoreless tie and Markus Gronli's electifiying game winner against Wofford for men's soccer; the fall season was an eventful one for the Lancers.
Beginning with men's soccer, the team was looking to improve on a 2018 campaign that saw them go 5-13-1 and win only one of their last six games. While the team’s record improved to 6-10, they again lost five of their last six games. Head coach John Atkinson addressed some of the highs and lows of the season.
“The high point was seeing how we’ve grown from the previous year. We had a very young team in 2018. We saw our average goals against number go down, which kept us competitive in games. The low point was seeing how close we’re becoming and just not quite getting over the hump. A lot of games were decided by one goal and we’d love to have those games back” Atkinson said.
Over the course of the campaign, all but one of their losses came by more than two goals, the lone outlier being an 8-0 loss to Campbell back in October.
The team suffered an injury that hindered them down the stretch. Redshirt senior forward Willy Miezan, a Second-Team All-Big South selection a year ago, tore his ACL during their game against Navy back in September.
Atkinson said that Miezan was a special talent and that it was hard to replicate what he could do.
With most of the core group returning for 2020, including sophomore defenseman Jonas Kalchner, who was named second team all-Big South this past season, Atkinson said he’s looking forward to next season.
“We’ve got a great core group. They’re maturing and they’re understanding what it means to compete at this level. I’m looking forward to seeing some of these young men growing even further. We’ll be back next year one year older and one year smarter” he said.
The women’s soccer team was also looking to raise their level from the 2018 campaign, when they went 8-7-3 and lost to USC Upstate in the first round of the Big South tournament.
However, that was not the case, as the team finished 6-9-2 and could not win consistently, never once winning back-to-back games. The team finished its rollercoaster season with a 3-2 loss to Radford in the first round of the Big South tournament.
Head coach and program founder Todd Dyer said the team's ability to not convert on scoring chances at a better rate hindered the teams' progress.
“If you look at our nine losses, seven of them were only by a goal. We were in those games, but we need to win those games. We’ve got to get goals and we didn’t do that for the most part this year” Dyer said.
The team only scored twenty goals in their eighteen games, ranking them eighth in the Big South out of 11 teams.
Dyer provided input on how to improve the said stat moving forward into next season.
“Something that helps us next year is that we’ll be a senior-laden team. You hope that experience pays off in that attacking third of the field," he said. "We need to score more team goals and not just rely on one or two players. We also need to arrive with more numbers in the box. We need our marquee forwards to score ten goals or more” he said.
Dyer said that his team was in need of a ring-leader and believes that junior forward Kennedy Culbreath can be that ring-leader next season.
Culbreath, a native of Fredricksburg, Virginia, scored six goals this season before suffering an ankle injury against High Point.
Dyer said, “She’s better as a player that is under the radar and finds her way into the game and finds those scoring opportunities. We’ll keep coaching her up, but we’re not going to count on her to do it all by herself.”
Dyer said his team was already thinking about next season. He said that he believes the team will challenge for a conference championship next year.
Last, but not least, the field hockey team enjoyed a few tastes of success this season. They finished 9-10 and captured their first ever victory in the MAC tournament when they defeated Ball State 3-0 in the quarterfinals, before falling to Kent State in the semifinals by a score of 2-1.
Head coach Iain Byers said, “Obviously, winning our first conference tournament game was great. The process of growing as a group and becoming better and better players was what we as coaches were really proud of.”
The team was led this season by senior goalkeeper Katie Wyman, who capped off her storied career with a senior season that saw her force seven shutouts and have one of the best save percentages in the nation.
Byers said replacing her would be no easy task, both for her play and personality.
“As a person, Katie’s irreplaceable. She’s one of the most phenomenal goalkeepers we’ve had and that’s saying a lot because we’ve had some good ones," said Byers. "We have three other goalkeepers on the team and we’ve got nine months to figure out which one is best suited to fill those large shoes" Byers said.
The head coach says he looks forward to the continued growth of his team and like Dyer, hopes to compete for a conference title next season.
The team next season will return seven starters including MAC freshman of the year Camila Duarte, first team all-MAC selection Luna Lopez coupled with second team all-MAC selections Charlotte Wilm, Sophia Loscher and Karly Harwood.
As the Longwood fanbase now turns their heads to Willett Hall, these three programs have already begun their respective offseason journeys to bring championships back to Farmville.