Going to the middle proves right move for Richmond's Lexi Prillaman
Prillaman, a junior from Magnolia, Del., is holding four soccer balls. All of her teammates surround her holding up four fingers. Prillaman scored all four of Richmond’s goals, tying a program record for most goals in one game.
“I’m speechless. I guess I was just on tonight,” Prillaman said immediately after the game.
It's justified that Prillaman didn’t know what to say. Four goals in one game is remarkable. Its also somewhat perplexing too. Last season Prillaman scored three goals. Not in one game; the entire season.
“She has developed athletically and her maturity has evolved,” head coach Peter Albright said. “She (now) knows when not to force it. She is pretty composed taking her chances.”
Last season Albright switched Prillaman back and forth between wing and center forward. This season her permanent home is in the middle. The results are staggering. She has taken 57 shots, 34 of which have been on goal. Of those 34 on goal, nine have found the back of the net. Prillaman is tied for fifth for total goals among Division I players.
”If we can build the attack and end with Lexi, we are going to score goals,” said Spiders midfielder Olivia Aha.
The improvement isn’t limited to Prillaman.
The Spiders are 11 games into the 2016 season and hold a 6-4-1 record. Richmond won a total of five games all of last year (5-12-1). They scored 19 goals in those 18 games. This season Richmond already has 23 goals.
During spring practice, Albright made the decision to put Prillaman in the middle.
“He told me that it wasn’t going to be a trial run,” Prillaman said in a recent phone interview with American Sports Network. “My first two years I was either right wing or left wing and we played a 4-3-3. When spring rolled around it all changed. I was playing center forward and we went to a 4-4-2. Something had to change (based on how poorly we did in 2015). We knew we were capable of playing better.”
Its one thing to talk about change; it's another to do something about it. Prillaman did something about it.
When Albright said that Prillaman had developed athletically, he was referring to a transformation that took place this past summer. Prillaman worked with former Duquesne soccer player Lance England who specializes in foot work and touch.
“He’s trained a bunch of people in the (Virginia) area,” Prillaman said. “The sessions were tough. He knew how to push me. It doesn’t matter how fast you are; how many goals you scored. He taught me how to improve my touch and its made a big difference.”
Prillaman explained that most of the sessions with England were dedicated to ladder drills; the moving back and forth in and out of small boxes. The goal of ladder drills is to improve linear and lateral agility and quickness.
“I had done ladder drills before but (Lance) had me moving for 20 minutes straight. I was on the balls of my feet the entire time. I was winded when it was over and my legs were sore because the sessions were so heavily focused on footwork.”
In mid-August the 14 Atlantic 10 coaches cast their votes for the conference preseason poll and an all-conference team. The Spiders were picked to finish 11th and not one player from Richmond was named to the all-conference squad. Prillaman leads the Atlantic 10 in four categories: goals (9), goals per game (1.00), points (21) and points per game (2.33). Richmond has already matched their win total from last year.
What a difference a year makes.
Photo courtesy Richmond Athletics