No. 2 Virginia squeezes Orange, 3-0
Leading scorer Ratcliffe adds season's sixth tally
The No. 2 Virginia women’s soccer team gave Syracuse a rude welcome to the ACC Thursday, blanking the Orange 3-0 at Klöckner Stadium. Three different Virginia players accounted for the goals during the team’s its fourth consecutive shutout victory.
“This was not an easy game. They were very organized and hard in their defending,” head coach Steve Swanson said. “Having said that, I thought we scored some great goals tonight.”
Virginia (7-0, 1-0 ACC) found it tough to score early on, as the Orange employed a conservative game plan in an attempt to thwart the high-octane Cavalier attack. Syracuse (4-3, 0-1 ACC) sat its defenders and midfielders deep in its defensive third to prevent Virginia from crossing the ball into the area. In addition, the Orange were content to hammer clears deep into Cavalier territory and keep the strikers at bay.
“One thing that is difficult when you play a team that sits like this is deciding when to be patient and when to say ‘it’s time we’ve got numbers and space, let’s go’,” Swanson said.
That “let’s go” moment did not arrive until deep into the first half for Virginia. In the 33rd minute, junior midfielder Morgan Brian orchestrated a clever attack for the Cavaliers, and perfectly placed a through ball for sophomore forward Makenzy Doniak to bury with a right-footed strike for her fifth goal of the season.
From there, the Cavaliers had seemingly figured out the Orange defensive side, and just five minutes later, Virginia struck again. This time, a give-and-go combination deep in Syracuse territory between Ratcliffe and freshman midfielder Alexis Shaffer broke the Orange defense.
“She was wide open and had a better opportunity to score than me,” Ratcliffe said. “So I gave her the ball and she put it away.”
Ratcliffe, however, was not to be outdone by her freshman counterpart. With 20 minutes left in the match, the sophomore crushed a one-touch pass from Brian that snuck under the crossbar for her team-leading sixth goal of the season. Though she failed to score last season, Ratcliffe’s high tally is no surprise this season, as she is almost never beat to a loose ball and has impeccable footwork that allows her to always be in the soft zone of her opponents.
Stymied in the game’s opening minutes, the Virginia attack had more than satisfied Swanson by the closing whistle.
“Offensively, I thought our team played with the right mentality and the right intensity,” Swanson said.
Although Syracuse had planned on being the defensive stalwart in the contest, the Cavalier backs outshone their Orange counterparts. Led by seniors Morgan Stith and Shasta Fisher, Virginia allowed just four shots the entire 90 minutes. The Cavaliers have yet to allow double-digit shots in a game this season.
Another positive for the Cavaliers is the depth they displayed. Despite utilizing seven substitutes in the match, the Cavaliers never allowed their level of play to dwindle, with four freshmen saw the field on Thursday.
“Our team, from the bench to the starters, all can play,” Ratcliffe said. “If we substitute, the level doesn’t change, it stays the same.”
For the first time this season, the Cavaliers do not have a game during the weekend, giving the squad a chance to rest before heading out on their first road trip of the season. Next week, Virginia will travel to Boston College and Pittsburgh, looking to continue its undefeated season and enter the fracas of conference play in earnest.
“It’s definitely good to go into the ACC’s with our first win so that we can go on the road with some confidence,” Ratcliffe said.
Virginia opens its four game road trip Thursday at 7 p.m. in Newton, Mass.