Virginia falls 1-0 in 2OT
Second straight season ends with single goal loss in first round of NCAA tourney
One year after losing 1-0 to Old Dominion in the NCAA Tournament's opening round, the Virginia men's soccer team hoped for a reversal of fortune last night against unheralded Delaware. But the Cavaliers failed to capitalize on their sparse offensive chances and eventually broke down defensively, suffering a season-ending 1-0 double overtime defeat.
With the loss, the Cavaliers concluded their season short of the expectations they set for themselves in the preseason.
Whereas the Cavaliers (12-8-1) have endured an up-and-down season with injuries constantly forcing lineup adjustments and preventing the team from ever playing at full strength, the Blue Hens (13-5-4) entered the evening in top form having won three games in the previous seven days just to qualify for the tournament.
The opening 45 minutes of action featured a defensive struggle in which neither team was able to seriously threaten the opposing defense. Neither team recorded a shot until the 14th minute when Virginia freshman defender Kyler Sullivan forced a tip save from Delaware senior goalkeeper Kris Devaux.
Virginia failed to convert on the ensuing corner kick, and no further shots on goal occurred during the first half as Virginia held a 6-1 advantage in total shots. Lockdown defending left little open space for opposing attackers and caused a dearth of scoring opportunities for both squads.
"The game was relatively even," Virginia coach George Gelnovatch said. "[Delaware was] very organized and an experienced team."
The Cavaliers had a chance to go ahead in the 22nd minute when a corner kick by sophomore forward Brian Span landed among a tangle of bodies in front of the Blue Hens' net and ricocheted around the 6-yard box. A premature celebratory shower of gold confetti descended onto the field, but a Delaware defender eventually cleared the ball and preserved the 0-0 stalemate.
"We felt [Virginia] out in the first half, and realized we could play with them," Delaware sophomore defender Mark Garrity said.
Following the intermission, the tight marking continued despite efforts by both teams to play a more aggressive offensive style. Ten minutes into the second half, Delaware made its first serious push toward goal when senior midfielder Kyle Ellis took on Virginia's redshirt senior Greg Monaco one-on-one. The Cavaliers averted trouble when Monaco managed to poke the ball far enough away for freshman goalie Spencer LaCivita to lunge on top of it.
Midway through the second half, the physicality of the match boiled over into chippy play and plenty of barking at the officials. After two Delaware players received cautions earlier in the game, another pair of yellow cards was issued to Monaco and Virginia junior midfielder Ari Dimas for reckless defensive plays.
During the 70th minute, play was stopped for an apparent injury as Delaware sophomore defender Prince Nartey laid on the field holding his leg. Although Nartey later rose to his feet and returned immediately to the game, the play set off an altercation between Nartey's teammmate, sophomore defender John Dineen, and Cavalier senior midfielder Felipe Libreros as Dineen complained about the nature of Libreros' tackle.
Fewer than 30 seconds after the restart, Delaware nearly seized the lead, but senior midfielder Evans Frimpong hammered a shot off the post. Virginia responded minutes later with a header by senior forward Brian Ownby which veered just wide of the goal. Ownby's flick from a service by freshman forward Chris Somerville would be one of Virginia's last dangerous attacks of the night.
The Blue Hens threatened during the 85th minute inside the 6-yard box, but Sullivan made a game-saving slide and stuck his foot out for a crucial block as LaCivita got caught out of position.
The lack of offensive rhythm continued throughout most of the two overtime sessions. Finally, 5:46 into the last sudden-death overtime period, Delaware ended Virginia's season. Garrity played a ball into the box and Dineen re-directed the cross back the other direction on a header which left LaCivita helpless.
As the Blue Hens ran toward their bench to celebrate, several Cavaliers lay on the field looking to the sky in disbelief that their season was over. While Delaware now advances to face 13th-seeded UCLA Sunday, the loss concluded the college careers of the team's five seniors - Monaco, Ownby, Libreros, Jumper and defender Mike Volk. Virginia's corps of young players, however, will try to build on the experience they gained this season in 2012.
"Nobody will work harder than we will [next year]," Gelnovatch said. "I can promise you that, and it starts tonight"