This certainly wasn't how anyone hoped the Virginia women's soccer team would start off its season. Ranked #7 in the nation in pre-season polls, the Cavaliers lost their first match of the season 3-1 at the hands of #8 Penn State. It's not a bad loss by any means - Penn State is a very very quality team. But it's a disappointing loss nonetheless.
The Cavaliers were playing without head coach Steve Swanson and phenom second-year Morgan Brian. Both are in Japan competing with the U.S. U-20 team. Of course, as our own Brian Leung pointed out yesterday, that's hardly an excuse. The Nittany Lions were without two of their stars as well.
The final score doesn't really indicate how much the Cavaliers were actually in the mix to win this game. Penn State scored the first goal in the 41st minute on a loose ball in the box - something that can almost be categorized as a fluke play. Virginia controlled the ball for most of the second half. First year Makenzy Doniak used a header off a corner kick from Erica Hollenberg to tie the game as well as notch her first career point in a Virginia uniform.
The tying goal came in the 76th minute. Unfortunately for Virginia, so did Penn State's next goal. The ladies of Happy Valley took the lead back for good just 22 seconds after the Cavaliers had tied it up. In the 88th minute, Penn State freshman Mallory Weber - who had already given the visiting team the go-ahead goal - put an insurance ball in the back of the net to effectively close out the game.
In case you're wondering, the 21-woman U-20 team that Steve Swanson is coaching and Morgan Brian is playing on has eight players from the ACC, two from Penn State and one from the University of Richmond. The U.S. team begins group play in Group D on Monday at 4pm local time (3am Eastern) against Ghana. If the U.S. continues winning, Swanson and Brian could be competing as far into the season as September 8th, meaning they would miss as many as seven more games. Thankfully, they'll certainly be back for the ACC opener against N.C. State on September 13th.
Up next for the Cavaliers is a match against Radford tomorrow (Sunday) at 2pm. The Highlanders are 1-0 on the season, as they picked up a golden goal in double-overtime against Howard University last night.