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Around the Pitch: Men take down #3 Syracuse, women stumble after big win

The men pulled off a huge road upset, while Notre Dame handed the women their first defeat

Virginia Media Relations

Welcome to Around the Pitch, our weekly roundup of Virginia Cavaliers soccer! Stay tuned every week for updates.

Men pull off upset victory over #3 Syracuse in New York

The ‘Hoos entered their road contest against Syracuse as underdogs, facing a top-three team in the country. However, in a tightly-officiated game that saw nine total yellow cards, opportunity emerged for the Cavaliers once Syracuse’s Jeorgio Kocevski picked up his second yellow card in the 22nd minute and the Orange were forced to play the remaining 68 minutes down a man.

Syracuse focused their efforts on defense after going down a man, and Virginia snuck a few chances just wide of the post. Those near misses paired with nine offsides calls against Virginia pointed towards the likelihood of a frustrating draw as the clock winded down, but striker Leo Afonso had other ideas. In the 84th minute, he created a sliver of space with a move to his left inside the box and fired a laser into the upper left corner of the net between two Syracuse defenders.

Afonso’s goal would prove decisive in Virginia’s first victory against a ranked opponent this season. It was his third game-winner of the year, and provided a much-needed statement win against a high-quality opponent on the road.

The ‘Hoos also dominated American 2-0 in a decisive home victory ahead of their jaunt with Syracuse. After a shaky start, Virginia controlled the play for the remainder of the contest, with reserves Andy Sullins and Kome Ubogu finding the back of the net. Sullins finished a putback after a corner kick to give Virginia the lead, while Ubogu’s score in the 83rd minute off a misplay by the goaltender sealed the victory for the ‘Hoos.

The men will look to keep the good vibes rolling in Pittsburgh against Pitt on Friday, September 30.

After big North Carolina win, women fall to Notre Dame

In a perfect world, Virginia’s incredible come-from-behind victory against North Carolina would have ushered in a series of matches where the ‘Hoos continued to look like bona fide national title contenders. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case as UVA suffered its first defeat of the season on the road against #18 Notre Dame 1-0.

Notre Dame controlled the game, generating a litany of chances and finally breaking through on a deflected corner kick fired into the goal by Maddie Mercado in the 76th minute. The finish would prove to be decisive, as the ‘Hoos could’t find an equalizer in the final minutes. There were opportunities for Virginia to score, such as a shot off the crossbar in the 26th minute and a one-on-one chance in the 78th, but the ‘Hoos were outplayed and couldn’t make up for it with quality finishing.

The Cavaliers seemed destined for another disappointing decision against Louisville Sunday, as both squads slogged through a majority of the contest and generated few opportunities. However, Alexis Theoret rescued Virginia in the 74th minute with a brilliant free kick from about 25 yards out drilled into the top left corner to hand the ‘Hoos the lead. In the 83rd, Haley Hopkins finished a header off another free kick to seal the deal and score her 50th career goal for Virginia. The ‘Hoos emerged with a 2-0 victory, but it was by no means a statement win.

For in-depth coverage of the Louisville game, read our game story here.

Virginia will head to Durham for their next contest against Duke Friday, September 30.

Play of the Week: Leo Afonso gives the Hoos the lead late in New York