Welcome to Around the Pitch, our weekly roundup of Virginia Cavaliers soccer! Stay tuned early each week for updates.
Men’s blowout loss to Maryland mars a 2-1 week
It was a shaky start for the men’s squad in their first week of action, dropping a tough-to-swallow loss to the Musketeers in the home opener. The ‘Hoos simply couldn’t finish against Xavier, unable to find the back of the net despite firing 19 shots. For the first two matches of this week week, though, Virginia seemed to turn a corner.
Against Rider, the ‘Hoos stormed out of the gate by generating a few high-quality set pieces in the opening moments before finally breaking through in the 13th minute. After Phil Horton generated a break off a well-timed tackle in the midfield, Daniel Mangarov set up Horton for a clean look and ultimately cleaned up the keeper’s deflection for the first score of the fresh season for Virginia.
The floodgates opened after that, with the ‘Hoos pouring on the attack. Moritz Kappelsberger headed home a swinging cross from Mangarov, the UNC Greensboro transfer making his debut in the orange and blue, in the 17th minute. Leo Afonso knocked home a screamer off the right post from beyond the 18-yard box in the 35th, and Kome Ubogu was gifted a free finish in the 44th after Jeremy Verley’s free kick deflected off the left post and fell to his feet in front of an open net. In the second half, the Cavaliers were content to pack it in and cruise to a 4-0 victory.
Virginia’s attack came flying out of the gate against James Madison as well, creating a few strong early chances before Leo Afonso finally broke through in the 17th minute with an absolute laser into the upper netting from 18 yards out on the right side of the box, a brilliant finish that earned this week’s Play of the Week nomination. The ‘Hoos continued to knock on the door, but wouldn’t break through again until freshman Albin Gashi fired home the first score of his collegiate career on the second attack after Virginia’s initial approach was cleared in the 65th minute. Phil Horton recorded another Play of the Week contender in the 77th minute after a nifty flick propelled him past James Madison’s back line. The Cavaliers conceded just one look on net while generating 13 such shots in another dominant 3-0 victory.
Things were looking up following a pair of solid victories for the ‘Hoos. Alas, they faced their first great test of the season against #9 Maryland in a neutral-site match at Audi Field and proceeded to collapse in embarrassing fashion. The match started physical, chippy, and was well-contested in the early going. Virginia went down 1-0 off a penalty kick in the 21st minute, but continued to generate chances; the Cavaliers actually finished the match with 14 shots to Maryland’s 15. The first bad break came late in the first half when Leo Afonso missed a great chance to equalize in the 40th minute and Maryland immediately capitalized off an attack up the left wing in the 42nd minute to make it 2-0 at the break.
The ‘Hoos started the second half with some vigor, creating quality looks around the Maryland goal and eventually earning a penalty shot in the 54th minute. However, the Maryland keeper saved Afonso’s attempt, a shot in the arm for the Terps and the beginning of the end for the Cavaliers. The floodgates opened after Maryland scored in the 60th minute, and not even a Daniel Mangarov score in the 81st could stem the bleeding. Virginia’s deficit would ultimately balloon to 6-1 before time mercifully ran out. While the week’s first two wins gave the team reasons for optimism, their drubbing at the hands of rival Maryland will certainly leave the men with much room for improvement.
The Cavaliers will host Virginia Tech at Klöckner to round out the week Friday evening.
Women knock off JMU, take home statement win over Memphis
After an immaculate start to the season, the women’s squad had their first middling performance of the year against James Madison — if you can call a 2-0 victory a stumbling block. To be sure, the ‘Hoos certainly outclassed the Dukes throughout the duration of the game, dominating the match’s chances. However, they started the game sloppy, playing multiple balls out of bounds to no one in the midfield and miss-striking quite a few quality looks at goal. Haley Hopkins knocked home a penalty awarded off a handball in the 47th and Lia Godfrey finished off a deflection in the 84th, but the result left something to be desired.
Any doubts raised by the JMU contest should be assuaged, though, by the team’s 5-0 victory over #23 Memphis. The game was closer than the final score line would suggest, but it was still an overall convincing victory that might propel the ‘Hoos upward in this week’s AP poll. Memphis held their own for most of the first half, forcing the issue in the midfield.
However, Brianna Jablonowski drilled a shot into the upper right corner from atop the box in the 43rd minute, giving the ‘Hoos some breathing room headed into the half. In the 60th minute, Haley Hopkins drew a foul just outside the box; VAR upgraded the infraction to a penalty kick, and Hopkins knocked it home for a 2-0 lead. For the final 30 minutes, Memphis pushed ever further ahead with their high press into an all-out attacking philosophy; committing their fullbacks incredibly far up the pitch left the back line vulnerable, and the ‘Hoos capitalized with three picture-perfect breaks to run up the final score to a 5-0 margin.
The women will face off against Oregon State at Klöckner on Thursday, and have another home bout with VCU on Sunday afternoon.