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Lancers unveil challenging soccer slate

High-level opponents dot the schedule for the Longwood men’s soccer team as they gear up for a return to action this fall following a compressed spring schedule.

The Lancers released their full 2021 fall schedule last Thursday, with an even split of home and road contests making up the 20-match slate. Select games will air live on ESPN+. Those dates will be announced later this fall.

The team opens play beginning with a trio of exhibitions over a one-week span. Including those preseason contests, the Lancers play 12 non-conference opponents up and down the east coast, with contests against teams from the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), Atlantic Sun (A-Sun), Coast-To-Coast Conference (C2C), Colonial Athletic Association (CAA), Patriot League and Southern Conference (SoCon). The remaining eight matches are all against Big South foes, beginning near the end of September.

“We are excited,” said Longwood head coach Jon Atkinson as he enters his 17th season. “To be able to get back to playing again in what we hope to be as normal an environment as possible is something you appreciate even more, having experienced what we have. Whatever the season produces, we should be thankful we get to play this beautiful game and experience life together.”

The Lancers have a battle-tested squad that returns 21 players who saw time, including all but one starter. A stable group of senior leaders also return, with Ander Etxaniz, Josh Fordyce, Justin Gates and Jacob Reimers back for a fifth season. Spring 2021 points leader and rising senior Markus Gronli also returns along with five total players on the team have played at least 2,500 minutes in their Longwood career: Etxaniz, Gronli and Reimers, and defenders Dan Ahrens and Jonas Kalchner.

That seasoned group, plus an energetic group of 14 newcomers, will face three teams that finished in the top three of their conference during the regular season as well as a pair of power five opponents. Both East Tennessee State (ETSU) and UNC Greensboro (UNCG) tied for second in the SoCon, and CAA power UNC Wilmington (UNCW) tied for third after winning the CAA regular-season title in 2019. The Lancers will also play an exhibition at ACC power Virginia while also playing host to North Carolina State in the regular season for the seventh meeting between the two sides.

“To be frank, it’s a tough schedule against some incredible teams for sure,” Atkinson said. “Personally, I’m looking forward to locking horns with coaches I’ve enjoyed competing against over the years. It’s exciting. It’s what we crave.”

The exhibition against Virginia is one of two road tune-ups for the Lancers, with the team opening exhibition play at VCU on August 15 before heading to Charlottesville to play Virginia two days later. The Lancers then head home for their final exhibition that also opens up three straight home dates beginning with Mary Washington on August 22. The regular season begins with two straight at home to close the month of August, as Longwood hosts a pair of SoCon foes in ETSU on Aug. 27 and VMI Aug. 31.

Early in September, the Lancers play three straight Patriot League foes, with trips to Army (Sept. 4) and Navy (Sept. 14) sandwiched around a home date with American (Sept. 11). The Lancers then head to UNCW (Sept. 18) before opening up Big South play by hosting UNC Asheville on Sept. 25. Longwood closes the month with a home date against NC State on Sept. 28.

In October, the Lancers dive deep into conference play, playing five straight conference matches through the first 16 days, beginning with a trip to USC Upstate on Oct. 2. The team hosts Winthrop (Oct. 6) and High Point (Oct. 9) before heading out on their longest road trip of the season. The three-game stretch includes trips to Big South foes Campbell (Oct. 13) and Gardner-Webb (Oct. 16) before a non-conference tilt at in-state rival Liberty (Oct. 19) for the first meeting between the two sides since 2018.

Following the match against the Flames, the Lancers return home to host two of their final three, with a home date against Presbyterian (Oct. 23) followed by a test against SoCon power UNCG (Oct. 26). The team closes the regular season at Radford on Nov. 3.

“As with every season, the aim is to find out quickly who we are and progress through the out-of-conference slate whilst incrementally sharpening the sword with each practice and game in readiness for conference,” Atkinson said. “While we have some heavy hitters on the card, I feel we are equipped to handle each game accordingly. Our lads should be chomping at the bit to get amongst it.”

2021 Longwood Men’s Soccer Schedule

Sunday, August 15 at VCU (Exh.) in Richmond, Va. at a time to be announced

Tuesday, August 17 at Virginia (Exh.) in Charlottesville, Va. at a time to be announced

Sunday, August 22 at Mary Washington (Exh.) in Farmville, Va. at 7 p.m.

Friday, August 27 vs. ETSU in Farmville, Va. at 7 p.m.

Tuesday, August 31 vs. VMI in Farmville, Va. at 7 p.m.

Saturday, September 4 at Army in West Point, N.Y. at a time to be announced

Saturday, September 11 vs. American in Farmville, Va. at 7 p.m.

Tuesday, September 14 at Navy in Annapolis, Md. at a time to be announced

Saturday, September 18 at UNCW in Wilmington, N.C. at a time to be announced

Saturday, September 25 vs. UNC Asheville in Farmville, Va. at 2 p.m.

Tuesday, September 28 vs. NC State in Farmville, Va. at 7 p.m.

Saturday, October 2 at USC Upstate in Spartanburg, S.C. at 2 p.m.

Wednesday, October 6 vs. Winthrop in Farmville, Va. at 7 p.m.

Saturday, October 9 vs. High Point in Farmville, Va. at 7 p.m.

Wednesday, October 13 at Campbell in Buies Creek, N.C. at a time to be announced

Saturday, October 16 at Gardner-Webb in Boiling Springs, N.C. at a time to be announced

Tuesday, October 19 at Liberty in Lynchburg, Va. at 6 p.m.

Saturday, October 23 vs. Presbyterian in Farmville, Va. at 2 p.m.

Tuesday, October 26 vs. UNCG in Farmville, Va. at 6 p.m.

Wednesday, November 3 at Radford in Radford, Va. at a time to be announced