After their best season in at least a decade, the Virginia Tech Hokies opened their 2017 men's soccer season last night ranked 17th in the nation. While the Hokies could have easily opened with an easy opponent, Virginia Tech instead decided to travel to Omaha to take on #14 Creighton in a huge opening weekend showdown.
The Hokies were the underdog going on the road and while they didn't get nearly as many shots as Creighton, they took advantage of the ones they did get and made a big statement.
#17 Virginia Tech upset #14 Creighton 2-0 in Omaha thanks to goals from Collin Verfurth and James Kasak. The star of the game was goalkeeper Ben Lundgaard who had a clean sheet and made 8 saves and showed he could be the best goalkeeper in America this year.
The statistics were never in the Hokies' favor as Creighton outshot VT 18-7 including 8-4 in shots on target. The Blue Jays also had 12 corner kicks in this game compared to 2 for the Hokies, but the play of Ben Lundgaard and efficient finishing of the Hokies made the difference in this showdown.
Lundgaard made 3 of his 8 saves in the first half including a pair of saves in the final 5 minutes of the first half. Meanwhile, veteran midfielder Collin Verfurth scored the opening goal in the 32nd minute off of a header from a free kick with Rory Slevin picking up the assist. The goal was the sixth of Verfurth's career and the first time he scored in a season opener.
Lundgaard had an even better second half as though Creighton came out firing, the veteran goalkeeper made 5 saves while James Kasak scored in the 85th minute off of an assist from Elias Tamburini to give the Hokies some extra insurance. Kasak was the star attacker for the Hokies in this game leading the team with four shots and showing that he could be in for a breakthrough sophomore season after playing in all 22 games last season but only making 1 start.
This win gives Virginia Tech the chance to make a significant jump in the rankings as long as they can take care of business against Nebraska-Omaha. The Hokies also have a chance to enter their home opener against Virginia 5-0 with no ranked opponents till then and their toughest game, on-paper, being their ACC opener at Duke.
While Marcelo Acuna is the star of this team after his prolific 2016 season, Ben Lundgaard showed he may be Virginia Tech's best player with his dominant performance against the Blue Jays. Lundgaard was the 2017 PDL Goalkeeper of the Year and is entering this season in the best form of his career while also continuing to show that he has a future in professional soccer.
James Kasak had a strong game against Creighton and after a quiet freshman season, the Stuarts Draft, VA native may be poise for a breakout season if his performance against Creighton is any indication. A breakthrough season for Kasak would make Virginia Tech's dynamic attack even more dangerous and likely give Marcelo Acuna more space to make things happen.
This is a great win for Virginia Tech to kick off the 2017 campaign that should prove valuable in November in determining seeding for the NCAA Tournament. More than that, the Hokies proved that last season was not a fluke and that this team may be better than the one that went to the quarterfinals of the 2016 NCAA Tournament.
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