Cavs rebound, snag 3-2 victory vs. Wright State
Virginia overcomes early deficit, late first-half goal to notch important comeback win against Raiders
The Virginia men’s soccer team bounced back from Friday’s disappointing 4-1 loss to Wake Forest with a 3-2 victory Tuesday evening against non-conference foe Wright State.
Despite the thin margin of victory, coach George Gelnovatch saw tangible signs of progress.
“We’re going to take all the positives we can out of this game, which are three great goals,” Gelnovatch said. “We created them with great passing, movement, our runs in the box and our finishing. We went after them and had them on their back foot.”
Just five minutes into the first half, the Cavaliers (7-6-1, 1-4 ACC) surrendered three corner kicks in the span of a minute, and the Raiders (3-9-1, 1-2-1 Horizon) were able to convert the third one into the game’s first goal. Wright State junior midfielder Derek Zuniga curved his kick into a crowd in front of the net. The ball found the head of Virginia freshman defender Scott Thomsen and bounced in for the own goal.
Virginia did not trail for long, however. Six minutes later, Virginia freshman midfielder Marcus Salandy-Defour set up senior forward Will Bates for his ninth goal of the season, and later in the half Salandy-Defour contributed with a goal of his own — the first of his career — with a light chip shot over Raider sophomore goalkeeper Craig Feehan’s head.
“I heard Bates call for the ball, so I just set it back,” Salandy-Defour said. “It was just instinct, it wasn’t like I saw him. [My goal] felt great. We were talking before the game about when I would finally score, and it just happened to be today.”
With just minutes remaining in the half, sophomore midfielder Eric Bird added a third Cavalier goal with a shot from the top of the box. The goal was Bird’s first of the season. But instead of entering halftime with momentum, the Cavaliers conceded a last-minute goal to Wright State junior defender Greg Marchand — a shot that was set up when Virginia conceded a Raider free kick to Zuniga.
“The first goal we allowed was an own goal on a restart, and the second one was on a restart and a missed assignment,” Gelnovatch said. “The game was completely manageable at 3-1, but to go to 3-2 at the half sends them to the locker room full of life and makes for a combative second half.”
For most of the second half, the teams remained in a stalemate. There were 21 total shots taken in the first half, but just eight in the second. The Raiders came close to tying the score, but could never find the equalizer. Wright State senior midfielder Tim Sampson received a well-placed ball from midfield and challenged Virginia redshirt junior goalkeeper Matt Miscione near the left corner of the goal, but Sampson slipped on his shot, and the ball deflected out of bounds.
With less than three minutes remaining in the game, the Raiders received one last opportunity when Marchand had a shot set up by a Wright State free kick, but his strike went just wide left. The game ended with no second-half scoring.
Against Wake Forest Friday, Virginia had plenty of opportunities, but consistently came up short. The Cavaliers took just one more shot Tuesday evening than they did Friday — and even had two fewer corner kicks — but were more efficient with their scoring opportunities.
“The biggest difference today was just finishing,” Salandy-Defour said. “We were hungry today because we need to finish .500, and this is one of the four wins we need to do that.”
Miscione played the entire game for the Cavaliers in place of normal starter, sophomore goalkeeper Spencer LaCivita. Miscione finished with three saves and earned his first win of the season.
The game came just one day after the NCAA released its RPI rankings, which pegged Virginia as the No. 13 team in the country despite not being ranked in the coaches poll. The wide difference between the two rankings can most likely be accounted for by what many Cavalier fans have pointed to all year long: strength of schedule.
“The national RPI just came out, and from that standpoint we are in really [good] shape,” Gelnovatch said. “Our destiny is in our own hands, and tonight was a good start. We have three games left to take care of business.”
Virginia will wrap up its remaining schedule with three more conference games. The Cavaliers have lost four-of-five conference games so far and have only scored two goals in those contests, but the win against the Raiders is a step in the right direction for Virginia.
“Just getting the win is a positive,” sophomore defender Kyler Sullivan said. “We’ve been allowing a lot of goals recently, but today we were able to score a lot as well. It puts us in a good position going into our last three games.”