W Soccer wins Virginia Soccer Nike Classic
No. 5 Cavaliers close out perfect non-conference slate by routing Rutgers, Seton Hall
The No. 5 Virginia women’s soccer team added two more blowout victories to its resume this weekend, closing non-conference play with a perfect 6-0 record for the first time since 2004. The Cavaliers outscored Rutgers and Seton Hall 9-0 to win their two games in the Virginia Nike Soccer Classic championship held in Charlottesville.
Virginia (6-0) continued to see offensive production from its entire roster during the tournament. Six different players notched goals, while three others tallied an assist. That kind of firepower has become the norm during non-conference play for the Cavaliers, and their ability to put the ball in the net is in no way a question mark entering ACC play.
“We put a lot of work in the preseason and during the summer,” freshman goalkeeper Morgan Stearns said. “I think it is great that we’ve been scoring a bunch because it shows how strong our offense is.”
Another area that should inspire confidence for the Cavaliers is their defense, which has allowed just 11 shots on goal the entire season. Virginia has dominated possession throughout the season, preventing opposing offenses from having many opportunities. The Cavalier defense has also relied on precise spacing and communication to smother the few counterattacks that its opponents have mustered.
“It’s awesome that our defense is solid,” Stearns said. “We can all count on each other. I’m excited about it and I think we all are.”
Virginia wasted no time showing Rutgers (4-1-1) why it is ranked fifth in the country Friday night. Although the Cavaliers were unable to convert a flurry of early chances, once junior midfielder Morgan Brian headed in a ball from senior midfielder Shasta Fisher in the 30th minute, Virginia never looked back. Sophomore forward Brittany Ratcliffe extended the lead with just 38 seconds remaining in the half to give Virginia more breathing room.
“The second goal, right before half, was critical for us,” coach Steve Swanson said. “It was a great finish by Brittany and it allowed us to come out strong in the second half.”
The Scarlet Knights were unable to make effective adjustments during the intermission, and junior midfielder Danielle Colaprico — who was named MVP of the tournament — struck from 25 yards out to stretch the lead to 3-0 in the 53rd minute. Colaprico was not finished, however, and volleyed a long cross from Brian inside the far post for her second goal in six minutes.
Virginia also got goals from freshman midfielder Alexis Shaffer and senior forward Amber Fry in the final 15 minutes of the match to hand the Scarlet Knights their first loss of the season, 6-0.
“I thought we played well in the second half,” Swanson said. “You have to give Rutgers credit. They were organized and made it tough on us in the first half. Our execution wasn’t as sharp as it needed to be in the first half, but we did much better in the second half.”
Virginia produced another impressive performance Sunday when they faced Seton Hall (1-4-1) for their final non-conference game of the season. Just three minutes into the game, sophomore forward Makenzy Doniak took a beautiful ball from Brian and easily finished for her fourth goal of the season.
In the 22nd minute, Brian found the back of the net when she got behind the defense and fired a shot to the far upper corner to double the lead for the Cavaliers. Brian added one more tally in the second half, easily converting a penalty kick in the 62nd minute after senior Gloria Douglas was fouled in the box.
The scoreline could have been much more lopsided than 3-0, however, as Virginia racked up 36 shots including 18 attempts on goal. Seton Hall senior goalkeeper Jennifer Pettigrew made 15 saves to set a single game record for the tournament.
Pettigrew’s counterpart, Stearns, was not tested often by the Pirate offense. Despite the large lead, the Cavalier defense remained tough late in the game and allowed just three shots throughout the contest.
“You have to stay focused and you have to keep your teammates focused,” Stearns said. “At any moment, these teams can come back and counter. It might seem challenging, but you know it is important so it has to be done.”
Virginia heads into ACC play averaging just over four goals per game on offense and allowing just three goals total in its first six games of the season, but conference play is certain to offer more challenging competition — three of the top five teams in the nation play in the ACC.
“I think we are in a good place heading into the ACC,” Swanson said. “We have created a lot of chances and scored a lot of goals against some very good teams. It is a good sign but we now have to see how much better we can get.”
Virginia will be back in action Thursday evening when Syracuse comes to Klöckner Stadium to close out the Cavaliers’ seven-game home stand.