Dynamic midfield duo fueled LU’s historic run

Published 1:20 pm Tuesday, November 22, 2016

By Derrick Bennington

Longwood University

Senior Finnlay Wyatt and junior Dan Campos have paved different paths through life, paths that crossed three years ago when they became members of the Longwood University men’s soccer program. Since that intersection, the international duo rose to become one of the best midfield combinations in the Big South, a pair that led the Longwood program to its first-ever Big South Championship game appearance this year.

Finnlay Wyatt

Finnlay Wyatt

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“I think we definitely make each other better by putting one another in good positions,” Campos said. “It’s a type of chemistry that you have with someone that you just kind of feel out what they’re thinking. It’s just easier to predict what’s going to happen, so it’s easier to do it.”

The fleet-footed Campos has blossomed in his role as the Lancers’ creator in the midfield, and up through all Division I games played on Nov. 17, he was tied for the NCAA lead in assists with 12. A combined three of those assists came in key back-to-back wins — the postseason-clinching 4-3 overtime victory against Liberty University on Nov. 2 and the sixth-seeded Lancers’ 3-1 Big South quarterfinal win over third-seeded University of North Carolina (UNC) Asheville on Nov. 6.

Those assists came as part of a late-season tear for the Bergen, Norway, native, who amassed 11 points during that two-game span, with four goals, including game-winners in both contests. Several of those scores came in highlight fashion, including his free kick golden goal over the rival Flames in overtime.

But for all the newfound scoring prowess Campos found — he did not have a single goal all season until scoring twice in each of those key wins — he still prefers to create opportunities for his teammates rather than make them for himself.

“I’m a better passer than a finisher,” said Campos, the three-time All-Big South second team selection, whose 12 assists rank tied for second on Longwood’s all-time single-season list and first in its Division I era. “For me, it’s just natural to set up a pass because I think I just find myself in positions to be able to set people up.”

Dan Campos

Dan Campos

Campos’ creativity in the midfield was once again on display in his epic Nov. 6 performance against UNC Asheville with a five-point night — two goals and an assist, sending his team into the Big South semifinals for the second time in four seasons.
Those two back-to-back performances from Campos have elevated him among the program’s elite creators, as he finds himself as Longwood’s leader in its Division I era with 24 assists and second all-time in program history behind only Ray Jones’ 43 career assists.

“He finds himself in good positions, so defining passes is what he’s best at,” Wyatt said of Campos. “I try to put myself in the best positions so that he knows I’ll be there (to finish). I think we’re both intelligent players. It’s easy to form a partnership with him because of our understanding of the game. We can feed off of each other, we can work together.”

That chemistry with Wyatt was on full display throughout the season, as the pair connected for three of Wyatt’s six goals.
A product of Sheffield, England, Wyatt — Longwood’s first All-Big South first team pick in program history — became one of the top goal producers in the Big South in his three seasons in a Longwood uniform after transferring from Virginia Commonwealth University prior to the 2014 season.
Wyatt, a senior and one of two team captains for the Lancers, ranked among the Big South’s top-3 in goals and assists this season and finished inside the top-6 in points.

In addition to those achievements, he scored his final goal of the season in the Big South semifinals, which lifted Longwood to a 1-0 upset victory over second-seeded High Point University.

“I think with (Wyatt), he’s a better finisher,” Campos said. “He’s better at executing the play than setting up.”

“In Norway, I always played with friends that I’ve grown up with, and with Finno, I have the same type of chemistry on the field. You feel like you know the person better than other people on the field, but it’s just like having the same idea to soccer. We both want the same things, so it’s easy to find the solutions on the field.”
The heightened chemistry between Campos and Wyatt was a welcome development for the Lancers, who lost their leading goal-scorer from last season, Willy Miezan, now a redshirt sophomore. Miezan broke out in his first season in Farmville, scoring 13 goals to rank among the top-10 in the nation, but suffered a torn ACL in the preseason and has watched from the sidelines since.

But while the loss of Miezan proved devastating at the time, it allowed for Campos and Wyatt to flourish thanks to the strategy deployed by 14th-year Head Coach Jon Atkinson. Needing to overcome an obvious scoring deficiency, Atkinson moved Wyatt out of his comfort zone to the front line during the early portion of the season. At that position, the typically midfield-based Wyatt helped in mentoring Longwood’s leading goal-scorer Max Poelker and his freshman midfield counterpart Connor Rea.

Poelker, a Yorktown native, has blossomed as well under that mentorship, turning in a fantastic freshman season that saw him score a team-leading seven goals en route to earning Big South honorable mention and Big South All-Freshman team honors. Of his goals, six were on assists from Wyatt or Campos, and in the case of two of those, both of Longwood’s top midfield combination.

Meanwhile, Rea, a Midlothian native, also made an impact in the midfield with his three goals — his first coming in the form of a game-winner against Virginia Military Institute in the season opener. He emerged similarly to Campos, coming on late in the season with two goals in a three-game stretch while seldom leaving the field.

“They come in and motivate us,” Campos said of his freshmen counterparts. “They bring a lot of energy and are excited to play every game, and we see that. Hopefully Max and Connor can start building a relationship like me and Finno have, because it will really help Longwood in the future.”
The Lancers finished as runners up in the Big South tournament this year, narrowly falling 1-0 to top-seeded Radford University in the title game.

For their postseason efforts, Campos and Wyatt were named to the Big South All-Tournament team, along with Lancers senior goalkeeper Carlos Canas. Campos and Wyatt combined for three of Longwood’s four goals throughout the squad’s tournament run and recorded seven points.