“I do not take that much salt in where we lie; it matters more where we finish. That stuff is just preseason voting.”
These were the words of UNC-Greensboro Men’s Soccer coach Justin Maullin on the preseason ranking of his team, where UNCG was selected third best in the conference.
Friday night, the Men’s Soccer team (2-1-0) hosted the Longwood Lancers (1-1-0) for its second home match of the young season.
Coming into the match, the Spartans offense had been unimpressive, scoring only one goal in their double overtime victory in the opening match at Virginia Tech and only one goal in their home opening against UNC-Wilmington.
However, by the end of the match against the perfect Lancers, the Spartans exceeded their two game total.
The first half of the match saw the Spartan team dictate the pace and speed of the match. Right out the gate, the Spartans played an aggressive offensive game that saw them take seven shots on goal for the first half.
In the 18th minute of the half, junior defender Nicholas Downs scored on a pass from redshirt senior forward Jacques Francois.
The Lancers only took four shots on goal during the entire first half. Three of the four shots did not require senior goalkeeper Logan Rohde to even make an attempt to save them, as he ended the half with zero saves. One of those shots though found the back of the net about only thirteen minutes after Downs’ goal to tie the match 1-1 with 14 minutes left in the half.
Then, with less than four minutes left in the half, Spartan junior forward Damieon Thomas scored a goal assisted from redshirt juniors Corey Croegaert and Christopher Reingen to take a 2-1 lead going into the halftime.
The beginning of the second half was reminiscent of the first half for UNCG, with the Spartans in full control.
In only 12 minutes into the second half, Francois added a goal to his assist from the first score. Now, at 3-1, it looked as if the game was over.
Despite the score though, Longwood never back down.
Over the final 30 minutes of the match, the Lancers looked more aggressive, had more control and dictated the pace of the match as they desperately attempted to tie the match.
They doubled the shots on goal in the second half (8-4) and had two more corner kicks than the Spartans (5-3). If not for three clutch saves by Logan Rohde to preserve the 3-1 victory, this match could have turned around completely.
After the match, Maullin talked about how he thought his team looked for the victory, as well as other events already in the season. He first discussed about his team’s play.
“The strategy tonight was to try to play to different groups and to keep the energy level up, as well as to press [Longwood],” Maullin said. “I do not feel like we did a good job of that in the first half at all. We did a better job at that in the second half, despite getting a little lazy with the ball at the end.”
One of the reasons for having the different platoon of players on the field, as he explained, was the level of depth for the Spartans. The team has welcomed 16 new players to the roster. Maullin went on to talk about the new players and the adjustment period which goes along with so many new faces.
“It is always a big adjustment on trying to teach the new players a new system” Maullin said. “The new guys have been a great addition. They have embraced the program and the program have embraced them.”
So far in the young season, freshman midfielder Leeroy Maguraushe was named Southern Conference (SoCon) Player of the Week for the opening week of the season. Maullin explained his role and importance to the team’s success.
“If he can remain healthy, he can be one of the most exciting players in the SoCon, and the nation,” Maullin said. “He is an exceptional talent as seen in the Virginia Tech game and we need to keep our special players healthy.”
The coach’s final words were a look on what he liked and dislike about his team play after three matches.
“Complacency at time during the game, with both passing and the ball and we got to do a better job at getting numbers in the box,” Maullin said. “We have been getting good balls into the box and if we can get more people in the box, we will start seeing more goals.”
The Spartans will host UT Rio Grande Valley next Friday, Sept. 11.