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NCAA Mar 17, 2013

JMU women’s squad reap benefits from Jefferson Cup appearance

By Charles Boehm

RICHMOND, Va. – Participants in the 2013 Jefferson Cup Girls’ Weekend got a glimpse of their potential future on Friday night, as the James Madison University’s women’s soccer team took on Virginia Commonwealth in a spring exhibition match arranged in concert with the massive youth tournament.

And for many of the Dukes and Rams players, it was also a return to their past for a few brief hours.

“Almost all of them,” said JMU head coach Dave Lombardo when asked afterwards how many members of his squad had participated in the Jeff Cup during their youth careers.

“As we were warming up, they were saying, ‘Oh, I remember playing on that field over there,’ so most of them have been here.”

Paced by a goal from Alyssa Zurlo, Lombardo’s side won the game 1-0 in front of a healthy crowd clustered around the showcase No. 3 field at Striker Park, the home facility of Jefferson Cup hosts the Richmond Strikers.

“The goal for us this spring was to really tighten down on defense. We lost seven one-goal games last year, because we gave up some soft, easy goals,” he told, alluding to a difficult 2012 season that ended with a 7-11 mark for the Dukes. “So that’s mission accomplished. VCU is a very talented team; I thought we did a very good job of keeping them off the board and really, not too many easy chances for them.”

It was an encouraging result for the veteran boss, the only coach in the 23-year history of the Dukes program, but only one of many positives to be derived from the two-hour southeasterly drive to the state capital.

“It’s always fun,” he said of JMU’s involvement in the Jeff Cup, one of the largest youth tournaments in the nation. “Our kids like it because you’re playing in front of a crowd that doesn’t really have a vested interest in you – it’s not just mom and dad and boyfriends and things.

“Part of the Jeff Cup and why we we always come here is that it gives the club team kids an idea, a peek into – if they haven’t seen college soccer before – what the intensity and the speed of play is like. We really enjoy being a part of the tournament.”

Like most of the NCAA coaches across the Mid-Atlantic region, Lombardo treats Jefferson Cup as a can’t-miss event on the recruiting calendar as well. He said several members of his 2013 recruiting class are taking part in the tourney and he’s been on the lookout for future candidates.

“You see all the red on my face? I’ve been here since 9:00 this morning,” he chuckled. “A nice 15-hour day.”

JMU play five more spring matches on four dates over the next month, with a trip to Washington, D.C. to face George Washington up next on Saturday. The Dukes kick off their 2013 regular season against Richmond on Aug. 23.

+Find the full range of our Jefferson Cup coverage here ]

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