Welcome to Around the Pitch, our weekly roundup of Virginia Cavaliers soccer! Stay tuned every week for updates.
Women surge to knock off North Carolina in clash of titans
Leading up to this game, the women’s season had been a Rorschach test of sorts: excellent wins like a 1-0 road victory over #8 Georgetown made the ‘Hoos look like a bona fide national championship contender, but underwhelming performances like those against James Madison and VCU tempered those expectations. Ideally, a solid showing against the second-best team in the country would firmly place the Cavaliers in the contender camp.
Through 45 minutes, it certainly didn’t seem that way. Entering the halftime locker room, Virginia trailed 2-0. They hadn’t done much of anything, failing to attempt even a single shot or win a single corner kick. The team looked wholly overmatched and overwhelmed by the Tar Heels.
In the halftime locker room, Steve Swanson must’ve channeled his inner Herb Brooks, because the ‘Hoos looked like an entirely different team after the break. They came storming back for an unprecedented 3-2 victory — the first time in program history that North Carolina had ever lost after taking a multi-goal lead — on the back of a totally reinvigorated attack and some brilliant finishes by Lia Godfrey and Rebecca Jarrett. Alexa Spaanstra also knocked home the equalizer off a header from Lacey McCormack.
The victory is perhaps the most improbable win of the Steve Swanson era: facing the greatest dynasty in college soccer in their home stadium (also the best in college soccer), and surging from a 2-0 deficit to hand North Carolina the biggest comeback loss in program history. This women’s team is absolutely a contender, and they proved it Saturday.
Read our in-depth coverage of the match here.
The women will look to keep their momentum going against Notre Dame on Thursday.
Men suffer last-second loss to Notre Dame
The men’s team played a pair of fixtures at Klöckner this week against La Salle and Notre Dame. The contest against La Salle was never in doubt, the team’s highest-scoring performance since 2013: Leo Afonso got the ball rolling by earning and finishing a penalty in the 12th minute, Axel Ahlander punched in a quality finish in the 35th, and the ‘Hoos simply continued to pile on in the second half. The ‘Hoos brought home a well-earned 5-0 victory.
The real test of the week, though, came against Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish played a compact, well-disciplined style of play; while the ‘Hoos controlled the bulk of possession and quality chances for a majority of the match, they simply struggled to break through — their best opportunities came by playing through Reese Miller up the left side against a centrally compressed Notre Dame back line.
Late in the first half, the ‘Hoos finally created what looked to be a surefire goal off a set piece. Moritz Kappelsberger’s header caromed off the crossbar and fell to the feet of Andreas Ueland, whose pair of attempts from within the six-yard box were somehow kept out by the lunging Notre Dame goaltender.
In the 68th minute, Notre Dame broke through on a corner kick which found its way in front of the net and took an unseemly bounce off Leo Afonso for an own goal. The ‘Hoos continued to press forward against a firm Fighting Irish back line, firing three shots off the post or crossbar in the final ten minutes. Finally, after a chaotic scrum in front of the goal, Kome Ubogu poked home an equalizer in the 89th minute. The sophomore forward, who headed home the game-winner against Virginia Tech just a week ago, has a knack for coming up big in big moments.
The ‘Hoos weren’t content with just an equalizer, though, in a game where they had controlled the play and quantity of chances. With about 40 seconds left, they won a corner kick and pushed forward for what seemed like the final opportunity of the contest. Then, things went wrong: the corner was cleared with about 15 seconds to play, and Notre Dame forward Matthew Roou displayed excellent composure to play a brilliant through ball to a streaking KK Baffour. Baffour found himself with just the keeper to beat, and drilled home a finish in the left corner with three seconds remaining to give Notre Dame a last-second 2-1 lead.
After a heartbreaking loss, the Cavaliers will try to get back on track against American this Tuesday.