Once again I was able to head down to Thompson Field in Blacksburg, VA, to take in a four-team weekend tournament. This time Virginia Tech was hosting James Madison University, Indiana University, and Boston University.
JMU 2, Boston 0
Friday’s first match had the 1-5-0 Dukes taking on the 0-6-0 Terriers. Ashley Herndon (who else?) opened up the scoring just seven minutes in, getting the ball on her side of midfield, then taking it to about 25 yards out up the middle and firing it into the lower left corner.
Six minutes later JMU earned an indirect free kick about 10 out from goal. The initial shot went into the wall and came to a Duke player, whose second try was also blocked.
JMU would double the score in the 36th minute. Sydney Braun-McLeod sent a cross in from near the right side of the penalty area that made its way through traffic to Steffi Page near the left post, and she tapped it in.
At halftime it seemed that the Dukes would be able to pull out an easy win, but Boston came out strong in the second half and had JMU on their heels for most of it. The Terriers put four shots on goal to just one for the Dukes, but JMU was able to maintain the shutout, their first of the season.
I noted to JMU head coach Dave Lombardo that it seemed to be a tale of two halves. “Yes, very much so. We’re struggling a little bit. We’re covering up some injuries with some defenders, and we’ve been a little bit of a revolving door back there. I thought we played a very solid first half, then I thought we would see the BU we say in the first half. But they really turned up the heat, and we did well to earn the shutout and the win. But we made it interesting.”
Added Page, “They gave us a good run because we’d been wanting the shutout for a while. We came out to play and win today.”
I also noted that JMU’s won-lost record so far seemed disappointing for the defending Colonial Athletic Association champions. “You’ve got a perfect storm. We’ve got a couple of injuries to key players. One was the starting center back for our CAA championship team. And three of the losses we’ve had so far have been to top 25 teams. We intentionally schedule hard so our kids learn from that and grow and then by the end of the season they’re not surprised when they’re playing against good teams.”
Virginia Tech 3, Indiana 0
In the nightcap, the 18th-ranked, 5-1-0 Hokies had few problems with the 2-3-1 Hoosiers. Madi Conyers opened the scoring in the 12th minute after getting a through ball from Megan Goudy. From about twelve yards out, Conyers sent a seeing-eye ball through a crowd, past goalkeeper Sarah L’Hommedieu, and inside the left post.
The second tally came in the 21st minute as L’Hommedieu was unable to do more than block a Kelsey Irwin shot. The ball fell to Kristina Diana, who had an easy putaway.
Irwin would get on the scoreboard herself in the 57th minute, lining up for a 35-yard free kick and firing it in hard inside the right post.
Indiana 4, JMU 2
Play resumed Sunday morning with the Dukes facing the Hoosiers. Indiana would open the scoring in just the fourth minute. The Hoosiers’ Julia De Angelis and Meghan Scott faced up against two Duke defenders. The ball was knocked around a bit and fortunately for Indiana came out behind the defenders but in front of Scott, who was able to run forward and send in a low cross unchallenged that Kayla Smith easily sent in.
The 24th minute brought four of the wildest minutes I’ve ever seen in a soccer match. JMU tied the score with a nice team goal that began with some patient passing back-and-forth across the top of the box. Finally, Herndon found Stephanie Hendrie making an open run on the right, and she put it into the lower left corner.
The Dukes would take the lead less than a minute later as Haley Crawford found Page with a ball over the top. Page put the ball in from about eight yards out on the left.
However, the Hoosiers would tie the game back up less than a minute later on a play I mostly missed because I was still writing the tweet about the previous goal. Caroline Dreher put the ball in off an assist from Maya Piper.
Less than a minute after that, Indiana retook the lead as Mykala Brown was sprung through on the right. Maggie Buxton made the initial save, but the rebound came right back to Brown, who easily dodged a defender and Buxton and put the ball in the net.
Brown would put the game away in the 66th minute, heading a powerful cross from Justine Lynn from about 25 yards out on the left into the net from about six yards out.
After this game, I corralled JMU’s marquee player, senior Ashley Herndon. “We got the first one, she said. “Unfortunately, we didn’t get the second one. I wish we could have done better, but it just wasn’t our day. We’re still trying to figure out our system and who we want where. But it’s also a good thing because we have so many people who can come out and play, so we’re just still trying to figure it out.”
For the Washington Spirit Reserves, she mostly plays the right flank, though for the Dukes this weekend she was primarily an attacking central midfielder. “When I play here, I just go wherever they need me. I guess midfield’s my role this year, but I’m ready to go wherever.”
She thinks the team is better than their current record. “I’m just excited for what this team can do. I don’t think our record is how we actually are. So I’m excited for the conference play.”
This is her final season, and she’ll be graduating in December so she’ll be available to play professionally in the spring. But she’s trying not to think too far ahead. “My focus right now is to win this team a CAA championship and then from there onto the draft and hope for the best from that.”
Teammate Steffi Page, who transferred from Stony Brook after her freshman year, is pleased to be playing alongside her. “Ashley Herndon is a legend. I’ve heard about her before I even came to JMU. I met her this summer, and I got real excited to play with her. And now that I’ve finally had the chance, it’s awesome.”
And I asked head coach Lombardo if he could say a few good words about her. “All I can say about Ashley Herndon are good words. She’s probably the most talented kid on the team, but she’s also the hardest-working. Those don’t always intersect. She’s the kind of kid that, if you look at her career, probably three-quarters of her goals have been game-winning goals. She’s got the knack for finding the timely goal and the importance of all that. But she’s a leader both on and off the field. A great kid.”
Virginia Tech 3, Boston 0
I didn’t stick around for this match, figuring it would not be terribly competitive. Alani Johnson scored in the ninth minute off a feed from Megan Goudy. Anissa Dadkhah got the second in the 44th minute with an assist by Kelsey Irwin. And Madi Conyers got her second of the weekend and the season unassisted after a long run through the defense. It’s telling that during the course of the weekend the Hokies got six goals from five different players.