Men's soccer halts two-game skid
Cavaliers down Patriots 3-0 at home
Monday morning at the practice field next to Klöcker Stadium underneath an overcast sky, Virginia junior defender Kyler Sullivan shared one of the Cavaliers’ goals for the season: “make Klöckner a fortress.”
Sullivan dreamed of being an architect when he was younger, but soon enough, he realized he was not particularly good at math or drawing. Though neither Sullivan nor any of his Virginia teammates may end up designing buildings in their professional lives, the team laid a firm foundation for that home-field fortress Tuesday night. The Cavaliers (2-3-0, 0-2-0 ACC) never trailed in a 3-0 victory against previously unbeaten George Mason (4-1-1). Virginia defended its turf before 1,148 fans, staunching a two-game losing streak in the process.
“We definitely don’t want to go 1-4, but I’m not worried about it at all,” sophomore forward Darius Madison said. “Our first four games this season were our toughest part of our schedule. So these next five games, six games, we’re confident of going in and getting wins because last year we had our backs against the wall and we fought out and we came out on top. So, it’s nothing different than last year.”
Virginia fell behind early in a 3-2 loss to No. 15 Wake Forest last Friday, but Monday night the team appeared poised to jump out to a lead themselves. The Cavaliers’ first corner kick in the game’s seventh minute yielded three shots, the last a straight-on drive from sophomore midfielder Jordan Poarch that missed wide-left. In the 15th minute, Poarch crossed the ball from the right sideline to freshman midfielder Jordan Allen. Allen then redirected it into the goal box with a header, where junior forward Ryan Zinkhan buried a shot into the high part of the net to take a 1-0 lead.
“Jordan Poarch had a really good chance early on, and those are the kind of things that we’ve been creating chances, but not scoring on,” coach George Gelnovatch said. “When Ryan Zinkhan scored that goal, that — and then of course getting the second goal — was big.”
The play was the first of several on which Allen found his teammates in position to test George Mason freshman goalkeeper Steffen Kraus, who earned Atlantic-10 Rookie of the Week honors last week. In the 24th minute, Allen lofted the ball into the middle for Zinkhan again, but the forward’s lunging header ricocheted off the crossbar. A minute later, Allen set up sophomore midfielder Brian James for another missed look at the goal.
George Mason threatened to tie the score late in the first half when senior defender Hugh Roberts headed the ball off of the crossbar. Moments later, the Patriots appeared to get off a shot with Virginia sophomore goalkeeper Jeff Gal drawn away from the net. Junior defender Matt Brown dove to deflect the ball with his head, though the shot attempt was waved off.
“Listen, George Mason hadn’t lost a game coming into this game,” Gelnovatch said. “They’re athletic, they’re strong, they’re mature — they’re physically big guys. That wasn’t easy.”
James extended the Virginia lead in the 44th minute. The sophomore took a pass from junior midfielder Bryan Lima and shot into the upper-left part of the goal.
“He wasn’t playing because he wasn’t playing well,” Gelnovatch said on James, who sat out last Friday against Wake Forest. “And so, his response tonight was excellent.”
The Virginia announcer intoned an unfamiliar phrase as the Cavaliers walked off the field at halftime: “Cavaliers two, Patriots nil.”
The second half started slowly with the Cavaliers retaining possession for the most part, but with neither team attempting a shot for the first 9 minutes. George Mason senior midfielder Julio Arjeno created the first true scoring chance of the half when he shot from just outside the penalty box in the 66th minute, his right-footed attempt clanging off of the left pole.
Allen found Zinkhan for a third headed shot-attempt two minutes later, but Kraus corralled the weakly struck ball.
Madison wowed the crowd in the 70th minute when he received the ball with one defender between him and Kraus. The sophomore forward controlled the ball, hesitated, dribbled to his left and shot diagonally across the penalty box, besting a diving Kraus. George Mason conceded defeat 11 minutes later, subbing out senior forward and leading scorer Wes Sever.
“Eric Bird played a great ball,” Madison said. “And it was one-versus-one. I like to go one-v-one, I knew he couldn’t stop me. [I] broke him down, just took my shot, saw my opportunity [and] put it in the back of the net.”
The Cavaliers ended with 17 shots to the Patriots six and four corner kicks to George Mason’s two. Gal recorded two saves for his second shutout of the season.
Virginia hosts NC State in its first ACC home contest of the season Friday at 7 p.m.
“We’re home,” Madison said. “We said, ‘Klöckner’s our fortress.’ No one comes here and no one beats us here at home, so it’s gonna feel good [to play NC State]. We’re confident and we’re ready for Friday.”