Lady Pats open season with positive result; have high expectations in 2017

August 23, 2017

MARTINSVILLE, Va. — When the Patrick Henry Community College women’s soccer team opens the season at Region X favorite Spartanburg Methodist College on Aug. 27, getting one of the toughest matches of the season out of the way early is something first-year head coach Lynn Murphy said will be beneficial. The good news is that the Lady Patriots will go in with a bit of confidence and some actual game time under their belts beforehand.

PHCC opened the 2017 season Aug. 22 with a convincing 9-0 win over NCAA Division III Hollins University at the Smith River Sports Complex (SRSC). While it was only an exhibition match, Murphy said it was good to finally play a team other than themselves prior to the trip to SMC. More importantly, it allowed the coaches and players to work out some nerves and see the preseason training translate into real game situations.

“They’re taking what we’ve been doing in training and transitioning it to a game,” Murphy said. “It’s not like it’s happening for one or two days, they’re taking what we’ve learned over the last two weeks and transitioned it onto the field, which is huge. They’re not losing it and playing their own soccer.”

The Lady Patriots scored seven first-half goals in the season-opening scrimmage and had eight different goal scorers, showcasing the team’s depth. Murphy was able to play several players in different positions and tweak a variety of combinations throughout the midfield without the chemistry being affected. The returning sophomore class had a big influence over the first 45 minutes as Monica Brown netted a pair inside the final five minutes, while Naysa Sanchez and Kirsten Downey added a goal and an assist apiece.

The communication, Murphy said, was something that stood out most during the team’s first game. Once the team broke the ice in the 22nd minute, everything else seemed to fall into place.

“The pieces of the puzzle are there, it’s just keeping them moving forward. Sunday is going to be tough, but everything from here on out is going to be tough, nothing is going to be easy,” Murphy said. “The first 25 minutes (Tuesday) weren’t easy and we had to get that first goal. We definitely have to play to our width, especially playing on our home field because it’s one of the biggest fields we play on. Using the whole width and playing the ball outside is something that we’ve harped on during training, and when you spread teams out that’s when chances open up.”

The Lady Pats return 11 sophomores which will be a key ingredient in keeping the program’s progress moving forward. PHCC won a school record 12 games last season and look to eclipse that number in 2017. Murphy said the midfield will be the catalyst to the team’s success this season. Loading the middle of the pitch with players that can defend, pass and attack while keeping shape will be critical, Murphy added.

Sophomore central midfielder Courtney Chapman, who scored on a 30-plus yard free kick in the exhibition, said the team is more defensive oriented this season but certainly has the weapons offensively. By playing five in the midfield and two floating strikers up top, it allows flexibility and keeps numbers behind the ball when the team losses possession, she said.

“The middle is one of the most important places that you have to control because if you lose the ball you have to get back,” Chapman said. “The chemistry this year has been amazing from the very beginning. Everybody was already talking from the first day and it’s been a great transition from last year. We just have to keep pushing and working hard to keep everyone on the same page.”

Freshman outside midfielder Elly Fitzpatrick also added a goal and an assist in her season debut. She said the sophomores have done a great job in preparing the incoming freshmen for what lies ahead this season. Fitzpatrick, one of six Australians on this year’s roster, added that the 3-5-2 formation that Murphy likes to run puts pressure on opposing defenses. It not only throws numbers into the attack but helps keep possession and passing angles to the outside.

“To have one defensive midfielder and two holding or attacking mids in the middle, along with two wings and two strikers up top, if done correctly, there will be a lot of action in front,” Fitzpatrick said.

With a promising result in the books, optimism is high for the Lady Patriots this season. Regardless, Murphy said the team can’t get too excited, for the season is a long one that will feature plenty of ups and downs throughout.

“We’re just going to take it one game at a time, that’s the motto I took from last season moving forward. It’s a long season but it’s going to be quick,” Murphy said.

PHCC returns to the SRSC on Sept. 2 when it takes on Stratford at 1 p.m.

Filed under: Women's Soccer