Longwood men’s soccer powers past VMI after strong first half

Published 1:57 am Wednesday, October 4, 2023

The opening 45 minutes were all Longwood men’s soccer, and the Lancers (4-2-2) used that to push past a feisty VMI squad 2-1 on Tuesday night.

Both Tosin Ayokunle and Iago Rodriguez banged home goals, their first of the season, for the Lancers. That cushion allowed Longwood to fend off a late surge from VMI (3-8) to close the match.

SCORING:

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               1             2             FINAL
VMI       0             1             1
LWU      2             0             2

6′ | LWU— Tosin Ayokunle (1), assist James Bolger
39′ | LWU— Iago Rodriguez (1), assist Gonzalo Carrasco
85′ | VMI—Amari Benjamin (1), assist Kyle Grant, assist Freddy Ferguson

HOW IT HAPPENED:

The Lancers stormed out early and seized control of the match with a dominant effort in possession during the first half. Longwood knocked on the door throughout that time frame by creating chance after chance, and they bookended the half with goals.

In the sixth minute, Longwood played the ball into the box. While VMI turned away the initial effort, James Bolger trapped it down and touched it wide to Tosin Ayokunle on the right side.

Ayokunle played a ball back in that deflected off of a VMI defender straight into the back of the net for a 1-0 lead. It was his first goal of the season and sixth of his Lancer career.

From that point on, Longwood kept the pressure on over the final 39 minutes of the half. The team was dynamic and created chance after chance, with nine shots total in the half.

Finally, the pressure paid off in the 39th minute. Gonzalo Carrasco took a free kick and curled a wonderful ball into the box where Iago Rodriguez nodded it home. For Rodriguez, it was his first goal as a Lancer in his second collegiate start.

After halftime, VMI came out rejuvenated and pressed the issue, and the Lancers absorbed pressure. Both sides created chances, with VMI earning five second half corners while Longwood created multiple opportunities in front of the Keydet goal.

While VMI closed the gap to 2-1 late in the match on Amari Benjamin’s goal in the 85th minute, the Lancers were able to preserve the win with dogged defending. Lucas Muller finished the night with four saves.

WHAT THEY SAID:

“We were made to fight all the way tonight by a spirited VMI team, and we had to dig deep late on,” said Longwood Head Coach Jon Atkinson. “I think the first half we played some of our best football of the season and could, and really should, have been out of sight. However, we couldn’t kill the game off and allowed the game to be far too transitional, which destabilized the control we had and subsequently had to endure a frenetic last 10 minutes. Thankfully we held on and got the result we wanted which the boys seemed happy about.”

UP NEXT FOR LONGWOOD?

The Longwood men’s soccer team stays home to wrap up a six-match homestand on Saturday night. The Lancers host High Point, with kickoff set for 6 p.m. The match will air on ESPN+.