The Washington Spirit overcame a slow start to defeat the Virginia Tech Hokies 1-0 in their final preseason test last night at the Maryland SoccerPlex. The Spirit, despite out-shooting the Hokies 19-1 on the night, needed most of the game before they began to pile up true chances, with Joanna Lohman finally breaking the deadlock in the 78th minute.
With international call-ups leaving him without five projected starters, Spirit head coach Richie Burke handed starts to four different rookies (Dorian Bailey, Sam Staab, Tegan McGrady, and Jordan DiBiasi) and two players with only one year of NWSL experience (Paige Nielsen and Megan Crosson).
A familiar pattern set in from the start, with the Spirit racing through the Virginia Tech midfield only to find it more difficult to break into the penalty area. Tori Huster and Jordan DiBiasi combined to send Crosson down the left, where her 4th minute cross found Hatch, who could only head over the bar. Hatch scooped a decent look from 19 yards over the bar in the 20th minute, while the Spirit were were left wanting a call after Cheyna Matthews was brought down on the edge of the area a few minutes later
The first half had come to a tepid finish, but the Spirit dialed up the pressure after halftime. Hatch’s 47th minute shot on the turn went wide, while Huster’s pressure at the top of the box saw her win the ball before firing a shot that was deflected wide. On the resulting corner, Dougherty Howard crushed a dipping volley on goal after Tech had half-cleared a Spirit corner, only to be denied by a spectacular Amanda McGlynn save in the 49th minute. DiBiasi followed up in the 54th minute, dancing past 2 defenders before curling a left-footed effort just wide.
In the 64th minute, an overlap from Bailey saw her fight through a tackle on the endline before slotting an enticing pass towards the penalty spot. Huster ran onto it, but fired her left-footed bid over the bar, much to her chagrin.
Burke turned to his bench on either side of the hour mark, bringing Arielle Ship in for Crosson in the 57th minute before swapping out his other two forwards in the 66th, with trialist Tiffany McCarty on the right and Joanna Lohman coming on in a false 9 role. While those subs were being made, Burke made another notable alteration to his lineup, with Huster moving to right back and Bailey going into the midfield.
The changes made a quick impact. In the 68th minute, Bailey showed the passing chops that made her one of the top midfielders in college soccer last year, playing an inch-perfect through ball for Ship. From an angle, Ship perhaps took one too many touches, but still forced a good save out of McGlynn at the near post.
DiBiasi’s pass in the 72nd minute gave Ship a chance to run at an isolated defender in the box, and her stutter-step move was enough to get Kelsey Irwin to over-commit, with the Hokies co-captain bundling Ship over and handing the Spirit a penalty kick. Lohman volunteered, but McGlynn read her intentions, diving low to her right to tip the shot away for a corner.
That corner became another, and on the second service, Huster picked out Lohman at the back post for a free header that smacked off the top of the crossbar before going out for a goal kick.
With the game opening up, the Spirit created their best chance yet in the 76th minute. Huster had time to pick out a lovely 60 yard pass over the top for DiBiasi, whose excellent first touch gave her room to pick her head up. DiBiasi squared the ball to the onrushing McCarty, whose one-time effort was somehow tipped wide by McGlynn.
After all that, Lohman finally broke through in the 78th minute, giving the Spirit the goal their play in the late stages had deserved. Huster again started the move, breaking the lines to find Bailey on the move. Bailey kept the tempo high, finding McCarty, who was crowded out at the top of the box. The ball fell right to Lohman, though, who tagged a low shot that slipped through McGlynn’s hands and into the back of the net.
Virginia Tech nearly drew level in the 80th minute with what turned out to be their only shot attempt of the night. Shae Yanez, just seconds after replacing Bledsoe in goal, caught a long ball on the hop, but her momentum took her just over the top of the 18 yard box, giving the Hokies a free kick inches outside the area. Irwin ended up hammering a shot that got past the wall, but flew safely wide.
McCarty nearly made it 2-0 in the 90th minute after Huster showed patience to wait for a run before sliding a pass into space down the right. McCarty got into the area, but with no angle to set up Ship, she tried to sneak a near post shot past McGlynn, only for the ball to trickle wide.
The Spirit’s seventh regular season kicks off this coming Saturday, as they host Sky Blue FC at the Maryland SoccerPlex on April 13 at 7:00pm.
Washington Spirit 1 (Lohman 78)
Virginia Tech Hokies 0
Spirit (433): Aubrey Bledsoe (C) (Shae Yanez 83); Dorian Bailey, Paige Nielsen (Carlin Hudson 79), Sam Staab, Tegan McGrady (Bayley Feist 79); Tori Huster, Meggie Dougherty Howard (McKenzie Berryhill 63), Jordan DiBiasi; Cheyna Matthews (Tiffany McCarty 66), Ashley Hatch (Joanna Lohman 66), Megan Crosson (Arielle Ship 57)
Hokies (442): Amanda McGlynn; Jaylyn Thompson, Kelsey Irwin, Olivia Odle, Kiersten Hening; Emmalee McCarter, Grace Sklopan, Kara Henderson, Emma Steigerwald; Emily Gray, Karlie Johnson
Virginia Tech was allowed to use NCAA substitution rules, with players leaving and re-entering the game. Molly Feighan, Caroline Cipolla, Bridget Patch, Mikayla Mance, and Allyson Brown all appeared as subs at various times in the game.
Spirit - None
Hokies - None