It’s finally arrived, the first game of the regular season as the Lafayette Leopards will be facing their first of 18 opponents of the regular season. VCU is not a regular opponent but they did meet them in the spring for a scrimmage at Towson. Unfortunately due to a shortage of available players for VCU, the scrimmage was only 8 v 8. It was the first scrimmage of the day, and in all honesty, it was hard to get a feeling for VCU. As I reported at the time, for what ever reason, Lafayette didn’t do as well, compared to their other scrimmages that day. But this is for real this time.
Stacey Bean, the VCU Head Coach arrived in January of 2017, charged with turning around a program that was not doing that well, and the results were dramatic. In 2016 they had a 7-11 record, but Coach Bean was to immediately have an impact. In 2017 they had a 14-6 record, the first winning season in quite a while. Bean was the head coach of St. Francis in Pa and Rhode Island. She was also an assistant at Boston College. She coached in Canada and compiled a 65-15-7 record.
Last year the Rams continued their success with a 12-7 campaign, and was in the championship A-10 game with St Joseph’s, for the first time in the history of the. program. They lost 1-0 to St. Joes who was ranked number 10 in the country last season. Good wins last year consisted of wins against Old Dominion, UMass, and Wake Forest. They lost in overtime to Patriot League opponents American ( two overtimes) and Bucknell 2-3.
VCU was led these last two years by Emily McNamara, who set the career and single season scoring record for her school and was deservedly named All- American. Last year she scored 27 of the 55 goals scored that year. VCU will have to find the replacement for those goals as she has graduated . However the second leading scorer number 15 Litiana Field and third leading scorer Maite Sturm number 17 will be in Easton for tomorrow’s contest, as will 5 or 6 of last year’s starters. They will arrive with 18 players which includes 7 first year players.
This game may may turn on defense, as VCU only allowed 1.53 goals per game last year and returns starting GK Sasha Elliot. Lafayette scored 39 goals and surrendered 2.89 goals per game. I believe the Lafayette defense is very strong this year and could very well the be the key factor in this year’s campaign. VCU took 317 shots last year while Lafayette took 239. Lafayette had 115 corners while VCU had 129.
I was able to watch their first game with Hofstra last year, and their strategy seemed to be to lift the ball downfield early, and even if it didn’t connect with an offensive player they then employed a high press for the majority of the game. They lost that game 2-3 in strokes, in a game, in my opinion, they should have won. In interviews, Stacey emphasizes intensity and pace as a coaching philosophy, and I see no reason for that to change tomorrow.
First games are intense affairs, and I am sure with their new players this team, like Lafayette,, will want to start the season off on the right foot. I looks to me that Lafayette has the deeper team with many returning players, and had a strong recruiting class as well. The keys will be,can Lafayette match the pace of this team, and put their balanced scoring attack in a position for success? Home field is a big advantage, although our usual support from the football team, will be missing since they will be on the road at William and Mary. Metzgar will also see the men’s soccer team busy at the same time. So we will need our hard core fans to be there as our 12th player.
Lisa Van der Geest, this years captain, and all American, in an interview, emphasized how well practices have been going along with the integration of the first year players. She said the team is excited to begin the season and it has been hard to contain that excitement, making sure it is all there for the 7 pm start on Friday.
This game will be played under the new rules, which include 4 fifteen minute quarters, and most coaches believe it will slow down substitutions. An interesting chess match tomorrow, as most first games are!!