Photo Credit: Dave Knachel/Virginia Tech Athletics
No. 17 Virginia Tech (5-1) picked up their fifth win on the season with a 4-0 victory over Grand Canyon (3-2) on Tuesday evening.
After a back and forth first half, senior Nikal Clarke-Smith scored his first goal of the season in the 44th minute to give Tech a 1-0 lead.
Clarke-Smith received a bouncing ball from Nick Blacklock in the box and slotted it past Lopes keeper George Tasouris.
"We got a good chance and took the chance very well," Clarke-Smith said. "From then on, we put our foot on the gas and kept pushing... I was happy to be able to contribute to the team.
Clarke-Smith's goal gave the Hokies a much-needed momentum swing heading into the half.
"We were keeping the ball and they were defending their half well [in the first half], but we needed something to suck them out," Virginia Tech head coach Mike Brizendine said. "They had to press out in the second half and we knew that would open up some space and opportunities, which is what happened."
Virginia Tech started off the second half strong, scoring twice in the first seven minutes.
A corner for the Hokies swung in and found the foot of Kristro Strickler, but the junior forward was swarmed in the box. The ball ricocheted around and landed at Jon Ingason's foot, which he nailed into the side netting in the 47th minute.
"The ball just fell right to my feet," Ingason said. "I was just lucky I was in the right place. Fortunately, I put it in the back of the net."
The goal was Ingason's third on the season and the seventh of his career.
Tech scored again just four minutes later when James Kasak whipped a perfect ball into the box to find Jacob Labovitz. The junior placed the ball in the bottom left corner for his second goal of the season in the 52nd minute.
The Hokies added a fourth goal in the 71st minute when Mathjis Swaneveld's distribution found Marc Hoppler in stride on the left wing. The senior took a few touches and hit a cross into the 18 to an unmarked Brendan Moyers, who placed it in the net for his first on the season.
From there, Virginia Tech saw out the shutout, their first of the season.
Swaneveld was only forced to make three saves, which is a positive for a defense that had given up at least one goal in all five games to start the season.
"We should've had more shutouts at this point which is disappointing," Brizendine said. "We did it tonight, though, and it gives us momentum heading into two conference games in a row.
Tonight's victory comes after the Hokies lost to North Carolina 3-1 last Friday, leading to VT dropping from 9th to 17th in the polls. While the Tar Heels scored three unanswered goals to defeat Tech for the 16th time in program history, Brizendine was pleased with the performance last Friday even if things didn't come together as they did tonight.
"I thought we played really well, we just didn't get the result that we wanted," Brizendine said. "It was nice to put all of the pieces together tonight."
Coming up next, Tech travels to Louisville on Friday for their second ACC match of the season. The Hokies fell to the Cardinals 1-0 in Blacksburg last season. They will be looking for their first ACC win of the season before returning home to host Boston College next Friday in their first game on the ACC Network.
Before their ACC Network debut, the Hokies are focused on getting that first ACC win and building off of tonight's victory.
"We've got a tough Louisville side coming up on Friday," Ingason said. "Obviously every ACC game is tough, especially hitting the road and traveling... we just have to recover hard and get after it on Friday."