In its final non-conference game of the season, JMU dominated in-state foe Longwood, earning a 3-0 win. Goals from junior midfielder Manuel Ferriol, redshirt sophomore forward Carson Jeffris and freshman midfielder Tyler Clegg lifted the Dukes to their sixth-consecutive win and its 11th overall.
After Ferriol put JMU in the lead with a clinical finish, Jeffris scored his sixth goal of the season to become the team’s highest scorer. To round out the win, Clegg scored his first collegiate goal late in the match.
“It started out slow,” head coach Paul Zazenski said. “I thought Longwood actually played well, they were in the game until late when they sent a lot of numbers forward and that allowed us to get some counter opportunities that we converted. We converted our chances down the stretch and that helped us get the result.”
Despite the Dukes controlling the pace of play, Longwood got the first real opportunity of the match in the 25th minute. Freshman midfielder Markus Gronli received the ball after a JMU defensive error and put a shot on frame, but redshirt sophomore goalkeeper TJ Bush tipped it over the crossbar.
The Dukes were able to break the deadlock in the 37th minute when Ferriol got the ball in the center of the box, turned and fired his shot into the bottom right corner for his fifth goal of the season.
While the Dukes had a few corner kicks before the first half concluded, JMU couldn’t extend its lead. At halftime, the Dukes led 1-0 and were halfway to its fifth consecutive shutout.
“[The defense] is incredible this year,” Jeffris said. “Bush is close to the school record for shutouts, our backline has been playing phenomenally and credit to them for keeping the zeroes so we can do the fun part, which is scoring goals.”
Zazenski used a heavily rotated lineup to begin the second half, but that didn’t hinder the momentum. JMU would continue its controlling play as Franz fired a shot that took a deflection and nearly beat the Lancers’ keeper, but it was parried away for a corner.
“I’m confident in all of our guys,” Zazenski said. “That’s the great thing about a deep team. You can put in guys in all types of moments, and they’ve done well with those minutes.”
The Lancers had a great chance to equalize in the 61st minute when redshirt senior Willy Miezan intercepted a pass and was through on goal, but his shot rolled into Bush’s hands. This was the second of two shots on goal for Longwood.
JMU bounced back quickly when it had a chance of its own in the 63rd minute. Clegg got the ball in the center of the box and had a clear chance to double the Dukes’ lead, but his effort went just wide of the post.
In the 76th minute, Jeffris was able to make it 2-0 when senior forward Aaron Ward-Baptiste teed him up for his second goal in two matches. Ward-Baptiste earned his fourth assist of the year, which tied the team-high.
“It was all Aaron for that goal,” Jeffris said. “It was an easy tap-in. He made the run, got the ball and very unselfishly played it to me. I even said to him after the goal, ‘That could’ve been your goal.’”
With four minutes remaining in the match, Clegg made up for his miss earlier as he picked up the ball in the middle of the field and dashed toward the goal. After evading a few defenders, Clegg calmly placed the ball in the corner to extend the lead to three.
“It was an unbelievable feeling,” Clegg said. “That ball got played into the air, I brought it down with my first touch and just started running at players … Next thing I know I’m through on goal and placed it into the back of the net.”
JMU now moves to 11-3-2 (6-1-0 CAA). They’ll play their final match of the regular season at home against Elon on Saturday, with kickoff set for 8 p.m.
Contact Noah Ziegler at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more soccer coverage, follow the sports desk on Twitter @TheBreezeSports.