The fifth-seed Virginia Women's Soccer team defeated Maryland 4-0 this afternoon to capture the 2012 ACC Women's Soccer Championship.
This is the Cavaliers' second ACC title. The first came in 2004 when they ended North Carolina's 15-year stranglehold on conference titles.
Virginia played as the 5 seed because of the tie-breaking rules that split up a four-way tie for second place in the conference. Florida State was the top seed, while Maryland, Duke, North Carolina and Virginia were tied for the spot behind them.
That left the Cavaliers in the awkward position of having to play on the road in the quarterfinals, facing the Tar Heels last Sunday. Caroline Miller scored the only goal of the game in the 11th minute and the Cavalier defense held on for the win.
Their reward for escaping Chapel Hill was to face the top seeded Seminoles in the semifinals in Cary, N.C. on Friday. Virginia was up to the task, though, avenging an overtime loss earlier in the season in Tallahassee. The Cavaliers downed Florida State 4-2 in a game that really wasn't even as close as the score indicated, in my opinion. Caroline Miller, Morgan Brian (twice) and Erica Hollenberg scored the four goals for the Cavaliers, while goalkeeper Danielle DeLisle and the Virginia defense held Florida State to only one goal in each half.
On the other side of the bracket, the Maryland Terrapins downed Wake Forest on Friday to set up the championship game this afternoon. There wasn't any doubt in this game who the better team was. The Cavaliers barely even allowed the Terps to touch the ball throughout the entire game and when Makenzy Doniak went one-on-one against the Maryland goal keeper with less than five minutes left, the game was already well in hand for Virginia.
Junior Gloria Douglas, who the announcers amusingly referred to as "Gabby Douglas" for much of the first half, tallied the first goal of the game in the 22st minute on a beautiful strike from the left side. The score would remain 1-0 Cavaliers when the first half ended.
It didn't take too long for Virginia to get back on the board in the second half, with Morgan Brian scored off her own rebounded shot in the 53rd minute. It was only Brian's third goal of the season, but keep in mind that she missed much of the early season while playing with the US U-20 team that won the U-20 World Cup in Japan.
ACC Offensive Player of the Year Caroline Miller tallied her 16th goal of the season in the 65th minute off an assist from Danielle Colaprico. The Cavaliers were then able to coast the rest of the way until Makenzy Doniak had a breakaway late in the game against a Maryland team that was pushing forward to try to get some goals.
The win made it the first time in school history that Virginia has defeated five consecutive ranked teams.
Virginia also placed five players on the All-Tournament team. Morgan Brian (who was also named tournament MVP), Caroline Miller, Gloria Douglas, Erica Hollenberg and defender Emily Sonnett.
Virginia now awaits its fate in the NCAA Tournament. The Cavaliers are likely a lock for a 2-seed in the NCAA tournament and will definitely host a game sometime next weekend.
There's an outside chance that they could sneak in as a 1-seed. They certainly did their part - they just may need some losses from other teams ranked in the top 10 (Virginia entered the weekend ranked #7 in the country). As of the time of publishing, #1 Stanford leads #23 California 1-0. #2 UCLA lost to unranked Southern Cal. #3 Penn State won the Big 10 Championship. #4 BYU, who is not in a conference, beat #22 Pepperdine 2-0 yesterday. #5 Florida State lost to Virginia. #6 San Diego State plays unnraked New Mexico in the Mountain West Championship game this afternoon.
My guess is that Virginia will be ranked #5 in the poll that comes out tomorrow, but I would not be surprised at all if we snuck into the top four and received a #1 seed in the tournament. There's definitely an argument to be made that we are playing the best overall soccer in the country right now.