By WESLEY HOST
The Mary Washington men’s soccer team headed to Lynchburg this past weekend to participate in the Shellenberger Classic: a showcase that included Maryville College (TN), Hampden-Sydney College and the host Lynchburg College. UMW triumphed in dramatic fashion against Hampden-Sydney on Saturday, but fell Sunday to Lynchburg College.
On Saturday, the Eagles and Tigers both started the game with gusto. Both teams launched eight shots within the first 20 minutes of play. One of the Tigers’ shots came off of the foot of Bryan Wharton, who ripped the ball past UMW sophomore keeper Blake Weiss to give Hampden-Sydney the early 1-0 advantage.
After the goal, the Eagles upped their intensity and out-shot the Tigers 6-1. The best opportunity was an attempt by senior Bram Sims after the 24-minute mark, but Tigers goalkeeper Duncan Oliphant denied the scoring opportunity.
At the start of the second half, the Eagles primary focus was a ball possession-oriented offense. The Eagles controlled the ball for much of the time following intermission, but the Tigers defense would not budge. Hampden-Sydney replaced Oliphant in goal with Jeff Bone, which changed the dynamic of the Tigers defense. They thwarted the Eagles offensive advances, but a handful of Hampden-Sydney fouls (six in the half) helped UMW keep possession for much of the half.
One of these possessions finally paid off when sophomore Jake Doyle converted a point-blank opportunity after sneaking past the Tigers’ back line. He timed his run perfectly to prevent being off-sides to knot the game up at one apiece in the 74th minute.
Shots from Sims and sophomore Tommy Sangbouasy were stopped by Bone, and it looked as though the game would go down as a tie. However, with just three minutes remaining, sophomore Nick Shepherd stunned the Tiger faithful by netting the go-ahead goal that would prove to be the game-winner.
“I got the ball at the 18 [yard line], made a touch towards the goal and ripped a volley through the 18 and six and got it past the keeper,” Shepherd said. It was his third goal in just four games.
Shepherd’s late heroics were a major momentum turn for the Eagles that they brought with them in their next game the following day against Lynchburg College. With UMW playing the host Hornets, who were the 2010 National Championship runner-up and recently ranked as highly as the No. 2 team in the nation among Division III schools, the Eagles certainly had their work cut out for them.
UMW came out with a lot of speed, which was matched by the Lynchburg squad, who is similarly built in terms of team make up; a strong contingent of Virginians and northeastern players.
UMW was close to taking an early lead four and a half minutes into the game, as sophomore David Heller connected on a corner, but the attempt was turned away by Lynchburg goalkeeper Michael Releford. Releford was solid throughout the game, finishing with three saves and allowing no goals.
The Hornets scored at the eight-minute mark off of a corner kick. The ball was batted around in the box as the Eagles failed to clear it. Lynchburg’s Mustapha Dumbuya found the ball in the clutter and kicked it at the upper right hand corner of the goal. After the goal morale was running low and frustration high as the Eagles continued to be stuffed on the offensive end.
Tempers got riled when Releford knocked UMW senior Corey Sims over as he went in to challenge the ball. Hornets’ defender Chaz Ashton continued to unnecessarily get into Sims’ face, but no cards were issued.
Lynchburg struck again when Jordan Clark scored in the 53rd minute. Clark lofted the ball from the left side of the field, and despite Weiss’ best efforts to dive back and prevent the goal, the UMW keeper could only get his finger tips on the ball. Weiss’ inability to secure the ball allowed the Hornets to take a 2-0 lead.
UMW got off two quality shots after the latest Lynchburg score, but one sailed wide of the net and other was handled by Releford. It was evident that Lynchburg’s speed and athleticism was too much for the Eagles to handle. The loss dropped the Eagles to 2-2 on the young season. A pair of Eagles, Doyle and Sangbouasy, were named to the all-tournament team for their performance over the weekend.
Mary Washington has yet to play a conference opponent, instead, they focus on a strong out of conference schedule. Preseason showcases are the best way to play a good variety of competitive teams, and UMW has played a daunting slate thus far.
“I want to play good teams,” head coach Jason Kilby said. “We have to be competitive with the best if we want to be the best.”
The team is still adjusting to a different style of play and has been greatly affected by injuries this season. Kilby explained how fresh legs greatly benefit a program.
“Having five subs out for two games, back to back, against high level teams doesn’t help anything,” Kilby said.
The Eagles play Catholic University tonight before taking on their first conference foe, Salisbury University, on Saturday at the Battlegrounds at 2 p.m.