Mistakes abounded in the first half for the Lynchburg men’s soccer team Wednesday night at Shellenberger Field. Players were confused defensively from time to time. The Hornets failed to make runs down the sideline to open up passing options. Ball movement wasn’t crisp.
The Hornets, though, battled through those issues and came up with defensive stops, holding their ground against 16th-ranked Mary Washington. Until one mistake proved especially costly.
With less than a minute to go before halftime, the Hornets committed a foul in the box, and Mary Washington converted the ensuing penalty kick for the only goal it needed in its shutout. Lynchburg couldn’t climb back from the deficit, falling 2-0 in a game delayed nearly two hours by weather.
Jacob Lovinger put the Eagles (4-1) on the board on the PK with 54 seconds left before the intermission, and Kevin Conrad capped the scoring with a second-half goal for UMW.
After the Eagles allayed a handful of Lynchburg game-tying chances to start the second half, in the 70th minute, Noah Mazzatenta crossed a ball into the box from the left side and found the 6-foot-2 Conrad, who rose up over a defender and headed the ball into the upper left corner of the goal.
The play followed a Mary Washington attack seconds earlier. The Hornets cleared the ball out of the box on the Eagles’ opportunity that time, but Mary Washington, as it had all night, stepped to the ball and found Mazzatenta, who settled it near the sideline to set up his pass.
The first 20 minutes of the second half belonged to the Hornets, who limited the Eagles’ offensive chances and had four good shots of their own at a goal, but came up short each time.
Lynchburg’s best opportunity for the equalizer came in the 64th minute, when Michael Lyons delivered a pass into the right side of the box on a free kick. Griffin Phillips was in perfect position, receiving the ball and connecting on a header that found the back of the net. But Phillips made his run to the goal too early and was called offside to erase the score from the board.
Following Mary Washington’s second goal, the Hornets had a few more quality chances.
In the 81st minute, Lynchburg midfielder Ben Mackey, centered in front of the goal and a few yards outside the box, put a shot on frame to force Mary Washington goalkeeper Ken Kurtz to make a save. Three minutes later, Abibi Osman found himself all alone in front of Kurtz, who came up with another save to preserve the shutout, the Eagles’ second of the year.
UMW outshot Lynchburg 13-8 and had eight shots on goal to UL’s five. The Hornets held the advantage in corner kicks, 6-3.
Mary Washington, which is in the midst of a three-game stretch against the Old Dominion Athletic Conference’s best three teams in Lynchburg, Washington and Lee, and Roanoke, improved its record against the Hornets to 6-3-1.
The Eagles now have won two of the past three meetings in the series after last year’s battle ended in a 0-0 draw. In 10 matchups between the teams, only three games have been decided by more than one goal.
By design, the Hornets’ slate doesn’t get any easier anytime soon, as they move on to face a second straight top-20-ranked team in No. 13 Oglethorpe on Friday. After missing out on the NCAA Division III Tournament a season ago, the Hornets want to ensure a high strength of schedule this year, lining up tough opponents like UMW and Oglethorpe in addition to playing extra matchups with ODAC foes Roanoke and W&L, which count as nonconference games.
UL fell to 2-2 with the loss, marking the first time since 2014 it has recorded more than one defeat in its first four games.
Emily Brown covers the ODAC for The News & Advance. Reach her at (434) 385-5529.