Welcome to Around the Pitch, our weekly roundup of Virginia Cavaliers soccer! Stay tuned every week for updates.
Men pick up cathartic 4-2 victory over Virginia Tech
It’s been a frustrating season thus far for the men’s squad. They dropped a home opener they very much should have won to Xavier 1-0 and suffered a 6-1 drubbing at Audi Field courtesy of a Maryland attack that totally picked apart the ‘Hoos in the second half.
For a a majority of their contest against Virginia Tech, the game felt like more of the same. Virginia controlled the play, with Tech content to allow the Cavaliers possession in the midfield as they clogged their defensive third and totally shut down play through the middle. In the 22nd minute, the Hokies’ Conor Pugh connected on an impressive header off a set piece, and the 1-0 lead made Virginia Tech all the more content to pack it in. Klöckner was packed for the rivalry game, but as the clock wound down in the second half, it was buzzing with angst.
Then, the floodgates finally opened — really, for the first time this fall. In the 70th minute, Leo Afonso swung a cross in from just outside the right of the box, which Andreas Ueland drilled into the upper left corner of the net to even the score. Kome Ubogu gave the ‘Hoos the lead just minutes later when he laid out for a spectacular diving header, which rolled past the keeper’s outstretched arms into the side netting.
Forced to commit nearly their whole team ahead in an effort to even the score, Virginia Tech left themselves vulnerable with essentially only their two center backs as a bulwark against the Cavalier attack. The ‘Hoos capitalized: a long ball to Phil Horton forced Virginia Tech defenseman Jack Dearie into an awkward position, and he dragged Horton down in the box, earning a straight red card and granting Virginia a penalty kick.
Horton drilled it to put the ‘Hoos up 3-1, and not to be denied, Leo Afonso tacked on a fourth goal just two minutes later. Afonso, who assisted the first goal, had been clearly craving a score of his own, and his celebration matched the jubilation of the crowd as he tore off his jersey and threw it into the air following his finish. Neither a yellow card for excessive celebration nor an 89th-minute Hokie goal could temper the exuberance from the Virginia sideline as the team picked up a 4-2 rivalry win.
The ‘Hoos will look to keep the good vibes going on Tuesday evening against La Salle.
Women lose winning streak but continue to roll in non-conference play
In their first game of the week, it was smooth sailing for the ‘Hoos against Oregon State. The Beavers packed it in from the opening kickoff and were absolutely peppered with shots by Virginia’s attack, who finished the game with 25 shots (11 on goal). Combine a dominant performance with a few unlucky breaks for Oregon State — their goalie misplayed a ball and caught it in the goal, and a Hoo cross hit the post and then fortuitously deflected off a Beaver defender before bouncing into the goal — and you get a smooth-sailing 5-0 victory.
The game against VCU was more of a mixed bag. On one hand, the ‘Hoos extended their monster 648-minute scoreless streak by posting their seventh straight clean sheet. On the other hand, they couldn’t score against a well-disciplined Rams defense. It wasn’t for a lack of chances — the ‘Hoos created a few high-quality goal-scoring opportunities, most notably a Haley Hopkins one-on-one with the goalkeeper — but they simply couldn’t find the back of the net in a 0-0 draw at Klöckner. VCU gave the ‘Hoos their toughest test since #8 Georgetown.
The women finish non-conference play with seven wins and one tie. Then again, they haven’t exactly faced world-beaters — though they did pass their one real test, Georgetown on the road, with a 1-0 victory. Things will pick up for the women’s team going forward. On Saturday, they’ll face national #2 North Carolina in Chapel Hill, and that game will be revealing for where the squad is at right now.