The James Madison University Dukes made the hour-long trip to Klöckner Stadium boasting a defense that had not given up a goal and sporting an undefeated 3-0-1 record. The men joined them as the Virginia Cavaliers hosted a soccer double header on the night. It did not go well for JMU.
After 45 minutes, the game was knotted at 0-0 and it was easy to see why the Dukes had such early success. JMU keeper Alexandra Blom was fabulous, making a pair of highlight reel saves to keep the Dukes in the game, but really, this game was never in doubt. On the night, the Cavaliers would out-shoot JMU 22 – 0 and take 10 corners to JMU’s none.
All that kept JMU in the game in the first half was Virginia’s poor play. The Cavs didn’t look sharp and made numerous unforced errors, spraying multiple passes straight out of bounds or to directly to their opponents. Virginia’s shooting woes were again on display as Virginia sent half a dozen shots well high of the crossbar. Haley Hopkins, last Sunday’s hat-trick hero, hit the top of the crossbar from about the 6-yard box, and substitute Maya Carter’s wicked shot hit the upright.
Head coach Steve Swanson has stuck with a 4 – 3 – 3 formation for at least the past half decade, and he’s been moving personnel around so far in the young season. He started this game, as he did the Fairleigh Dickinson game, by pairing Lacy McCormack in the center of defense with Talia Staude. For the past two seasons, Claire Constant has been Staude’s mate on the line, but now Swanson has moved Constant up to center midfield and moved Alexis Theoret — who should be the center mid — to the right side of midfield.
Furthermore, Lia Godfrey, nominally the left midfielder, has free reign to roam all over the midfield and she was more frequently in the right channel than the left. She covers a lot of ground, but she was consistently late getting back to her defensive assignment on the left. Constant is not as good a central midfielder as she is a defender and Theoret has looked uncomfortable on the right. This coupled with Godfrey neglecting the left, allowed JMU to frequently ping the ball around UVA’s midfield.
Now, there is a huge gulf in class between Virginia and James Madison. So JMU couldn’t take advantage of their possession. But if the UNCs and Dukes of the ACC are watching, JMU gave them a template for how to control the midfield against the Cavaliers.
In the second half, Swanson put Theoret back in the middle first-year Maggie Cagle on the right, and order was restored very quickly. Just over a minute into the second half, JMU committed a hand ball in the box and the Cavaliers were rewarded with a penalty kick. It’s pretty clear that Hopkins has laid claim to the penalty taking role and, for the second game in a row, struck a sublime penalty. JMU’s Blom went the right way and got a decent jump, and Hopkins still beat her.
Virginia cut down on the unforced errors and took control of the game. Hopkins and Rebecca Jarrett both skied a couple of shots, but JMU never seriously threatened. And to the Dukes’ credit, they didn’t give up and for a brief two-minute burst late in the half, JMU ratcheted up the pressure and kept Virginia pinned down.
With five minutes left in the game, Virginia put the game out of reach. Maya Carter had the ball at the top of the box, made a deft turn and had her shot deflected to just in front of an on-rushing Lia Godfrey. Godfrey punched the ball home from the top of the box and the game was secure.
With the victory, Virginia improves to 5 – 0 on the season, hosting a clash with new Top-25 entrant Memphis on Sunday. The game will be on ACCNX and will kick off at 6:00pm.
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