BLACKSBURG – The Virginia Tech men’s soccer team earned its first win of the young season this afternoon, earning a shutout in a 1-0 win over Richmond at Thompson Field in the final game of the Hilton Garden Inn Hokie Invitational.
“I felt that today was a better performance from my group,” Virginia Tech head coach Mike Brizendine said. “Friday’s performance wasn’t good, but with the belief in this group we were able to turn that around with a win today. There were a number of things that were better in this game compared to Friday. [Richmond head coach] Leigh Cowlishaw has done a great job with his guys and they put us under pressure, but we still kept them to zero. Shutouts are a goal for this group so I was pleased to come away with that.”
Looking to rebound after Friday night’s loss to SIU-Edwardsville, the Hokies came out quick as senior David Fiorello nearly found the back of the net in the fourth minute as he one-timed a shot from a Jed Prater corner.
The 16th minute saw Richmond nearly brake open the match as well, as a corner from Oliver Murphy found the head of Houston Oldhman that was blocked. Timmy Albright took a rip at the rebound, but Kyle Renfro was there to make the first of his six saves of the day.
Just over four minutes later, Tech found the goal it was looking for as Ben Strong found space down the right side of the Spider penalty box. The sophomore moved toward the endline and sent a low pass into the six-yard box that found David Clemens wide open. The junior calmly stepped toward the ball with his left foot before cleverly slotting it into the left side of the net with his right foot.
Strong again found space on the right side in the 33rd minute, but with a defender closing in his shot was just to the right of the post.
The Hokies took a 1-0 lead into the break, but Richmond came out looking for the equalizer, earning a pair of corners early in the second half. In the 57th minute, Tech nearly caught the Spiders on a counter attack as Prater sent a lobbed pass over the Richmond defense that Daniel Lauretano got onto the end of. The freshman’s one-timer sailed just over the crossbar to leave Tech’s advantage still at one.
Just over three minutes later, Albright thought he had the equalizer for the Spiders on a header from the left side. With his back post wide open Renfro was forced to react quickly to and reach back to get his left hand on the ball to deny the striker’s attempt.
With Richmond furiously pushing to tie the game, the Hokies nearly put the game away in the final 10 minutes as Clemens beat two defenders and chipped a shot just over bar, and Drew Hartell placed a header just wide of the left post.
With a flurry at the end by the Spiders, the Tech defense was up to the challenge, stifling Richmond’s final opportunities to seal the win.
Despite being outshot 15-10 overall, Tech nabbed the one it needed as Renfro came up with several key saves on the day to earn his first clean sheet of the season. Clemens led the Hokies with three shots, while Strong and Lauretano each had a pair.
The Hokies will be off until Aug. 31 when they take on Temple at 5 p.m. in Harrisonburg, Va., at University Park in the Fairfield Inn by Marriott Invitational hosted by James Madison University.
For updates on Virginia Tech men's soccer, follow the Hokies on Twitter (@VT_MSoccer).