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Colella vaults Longwood over Howard

Olivia Colella broke open a scoreless game with a game-winning free kick in the 83rd minute to lift Longwood to a 1-0 victory over reigning Southwestern Athletic Conference champion Howard Sunday afternoon at the Longwood Athletics Complex.

After spending a week preparing for the exact free-kick scenario she found herself in with less than 10 minutes remaining in Sunday’s game, Colella capitalized on the opportunity and delivered a game-winner that pushed the Lancers to a 2-1-0 start to their 2015 season.

“It was funny because we practiced kicking those on the exact same spot during practice,” said Colella, whose goal Sunday was the fourth game-winner of her career. “Coach kept telling me, ‘It’s going to happen in a game and you’re going to put it in.’ He was right, and I’m happy I finished it because we’d been working really hard and all our other opportunities had fallen through.”

After a contact foul to Longwood freshman Sydney Wallace just outside the penalty box set Colella up with a free chance at the Howard goal, the senior forward lifted her shot over a wall of three defenders and bent it back down into the lower left corner of the net to give Longwood a 1-0 lead.

Colella’s game-winner came on Longwood’s 12th shot on goal of the day, 10 of which had been saved by Howard goalkeeper Mackenzie Diotte and the other of which, a slow-rolling putback from freshman Amber Gustafson that reached the goal line, was booted away by a Howard defender just before it crossed the plane.

There was no doubt about Colella’s go-ahead score, however, as it skipped off Diotte’s gloved hand into the back of the net.

The goal was Colella’s first of the season and stood until the final horn despite a last-minute scare from the Bison.

Howard used their final seven minutes to work toward a last-minute corner kick that would have been redirected into the back corner of Longwood’s net if not for sophomore midfielder Janese Quick.

With just over 50 seconds remaining, Howard midfielder Whitney White lofted a corner kick into a scrum in front of the net where Kela Gray fielded it and fired it to the back corner.

The shot was out of reach of Longwood keeper Maria Kirby, but Quick was positioned just inside the post to save the goal and preserve Longwood’s lead.

Quick’s save preserved the second career shutout for Longwood sophomore goalkeeper Maria Kirby, who corralled the only shot she faced and directed the Lancer defense into allowing just two shots on goal.

Through three games, the Longwood defense has surrendered just 3.3 shots on goal per game and one total goal, both the second-lowest marks in the Big South.

“That was certainly a better result than our last performance, but I think our whole team would agree that we’re still a little rough around the edges,” Dyer said.

“I do feel we deserved a goal in that game, and it’s pretty fitting that Olivia scored on a set piece to help us break through. A lot of the girls played tonight, and I think our depth was a big factor in the end. Now on to Virginia Tech where we’ll have to be great to get something out of our first road test.”

A trip to Western Carolina Sunday follows the matchup against the Hokies, proceeded by games at VMI, Western Virginia and Richmond before the Lancers finally return home on Sept. 23 to face High Point in the Big South opener.