BLACKSBURG – A pair of freshmen tallied goals for the Hokies tonight as the Virginia Tech men’s soccer team defeated NJIT 2-1 at Thompson Field.
Virginia Tech (5-5-1) opened up the first part of the game with a couple great opportunities, none other than a header by David Clemens in the fourth minute. NJIT keeper Lars Maalen-Johansen was forced into early action to make that stop, along with being forced to make another save in the 12th minute on a shot by Cameron Owens. NJIT (7-6-0) though, came right back as Cristian Marcel put a shot off of the right post.
Hunter Jecius got the Hokies on the board in the 15th minute, scoring off a well-placed cross from Ben Strong on a corner kick Just outside the six-yard box, the 6-foot-3 defender rose up and headed the ball toward the right side of the net for the first goal of his career in only his second shot attempt of the season.
The Highlanders nearly tied the game up in the 30th minute, but Marko Drljic’s strike found the left post.
In a back and forth first half that saw both sides pushing on counter attacks, the shot total was even at four through 45 minutes, but the Hokies held the one-goal advantage.
Daniel Lauretano nearly provided Tech an insurance goal 15 seconds into the second half. The freshman sent in a lofted ball from the left side that initially appeared to be a cross. The attempt nearly caught Maalen-Johansen off guard when it was headed on frame, but unfortunately for the striker, it ricocheted off of the crossbar.
Four minutes later, Drljic had another chance to level the game, but this time, his shot attempt found the right post. The ball though bounced back to teammate Joshua Mercer who buried the rebound to knot up the match at 1-1.
Lauretano was back at in the 54th minute, trying to get the Hokies the second goal they were searching for. The freshman lost his man on the back post and connected on a diving header after a curling cross was sent in from the right side of the box. An uproar from the crowd ensued as the ball appeared to be in the back of the net, but unfortunately for the Hokies, the attempt was placed just outside of the post.
The Hokies persistent pressure paid off in the 59th minute as Connor Pompilio took the ball in the box, cut to his left and dribbled toward the post before slotting a shot past Maalen-Johansen to the give Tech a 2-1 lead. It was the freshman’s second goal of the season and turned out to be his first game-winner as the Hokie defense limited the Highlanders to only one shot through the remaining half hour of play.
“I’m pleased that we got a win tonight against a strong NJIT team.” Virginia Tech head coach Mike Brizendine said. “It was nice to see Connor get another goal, but I’m not pleased that we gave up a goal. We put ourselves under direst. We need to continue to work on our finishing and our defending. We can be sharp if we play as a group and I like our team’s chances against anyone if we do. We just need to continue to be sharp when we step on the field and really press on teams and force them to make mistakes and then make the most of those opportunities.”
Tech held an 11-7 shot advantage overall after outshooting the Highlanders 7-3 during the final 45 minutes. Lauretano led the Hokies with four shots, while Clemens and Owens each added a pair.
The Hokies are back on the road Tuesday night as they travel to Farmville, Va., to face Longwood at 7 p.m.
For updates on Virginia Tech men's soccer, follow the Hokies on Twitter (@VT_MSoccer).