LU makes statement in bid for MAC berth

Published 7:20 am Thursday, October 27, 2016

With a potential berth in the Mid-American Conference Tournament hanging in the balance, Longwood University’s field hockey team made a statement via a dominant 5-1 win over conference foe Central Michigan University last Saturday afternoon at the CMU Field Hockey Complex.

MAC scoring leader Edel Nyland busted out for a pair of early goals to spark the win, which pushed Longwood (8-8, 2-3 MAC) back to .500 on the season and a half game out of a top-four spot in the MAC standings. The Lancers trail Ball State (7-9, 2-2 MAC) for the fourth and final spot in the MAC Championship Tournament with the season finale for the Lancers against Missouri State looming on Saturday.

“It’s definitely a huge win for us,” Nyland said. “We knew coming into today being where we are in the standings that there was no option but to dominate, and we came out and did that from the start.”

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Nyland scored the first two goals of the game, including the first just 33 seconds after the opening whistle. The junior from Tipperary, Ireland, added her MAC-leading 16th goal of the season in the 14th minute and watched as freshman teammate Sophia DeFeo drove in another score in the final minute of the first half to give the Lancers a 3-0 lead entering the break. In all, four different players scored the five Longwood goals with four different players collecting at least one assist.

“I’m proud of the way we played the game against a very combative Central Michigan team,” Longwood 12th-year Head Coach Iain Byers said. “We controlled large portions of the game and were very efficient with our execution in the first half, so that obviously makes us happy as a coaching staff and a team.”

Central Michigan (1-16, 0-6 MAC) battled to break up Longwood’s attempt at a shutout four minutes into the second half when Carly Brengosz slipped one past Longwood goalkeeper Lauren Bernard, but that was the lone blemish on an otherwise lockdown day for the senior goalie. Bernard finished with four saves.

The Lancers got two insurance goals late in the second half, one from Leonie Verstraete, her 13th goal of the year, and one from Maddie Kendrick, her first.

“It’s exciting because we made a decision a few games back not to take the hard hits lying down,” Nyland said. “The coaches told us we had a chance to rewrite our story on how we would end this season. Today was another step in that story, and we plan on taking another step next weekend against Missouri State.”

The win puts Longwood closer to the program’s first MAC Championship berth after missing out on last year’s postseason due to the conference’s tiebreak procedures. With one contest remaining, Longwood enters the match against Missouri State riding consecutive conference wins as the Lancers look to chase down Ball State in the conference standings.

“We know what we need to do,” Byers said. “We have one game to play in the MAC and we know if we win that we put ourselves in a great position to make the postseason, which was our goal at the start of the season. There are still some things we need to work on, and we’re looking forward to getting into it.

First touch for Saturday’s game against Missouri State at the Longwood Athletics Complex is set for 3 p.m.