Men's Soccer dominates Pittsburgh, 5-0
Cavaliers remain hot with highest point total since 2008, shutout ACC-newcomer Pittsburgh
Friday night at Klöckner Stadium, with the Virginia men’s soccer team holding an insurmountable lead against winless Pittsburgh as the second half began, all 11 Cavalier starters returned to the field to put the finishing touches on their fourth straight victory.
Playing for the seventh time in 22 days, regulars junior midfielder Eric Bird, sophomore forward Darius Madison, sophomore midfielder Marcus Salandy-Defour and freshman forward Riggs Lennon would not have been reproached for sitting down. The Cavaliers (6-3-1, 2-2-1 ACC), however, have built up considerable momentum in the past three weeks by not letting up. Virginia’s 5-0 rout of conference-newcomer Pittsburgh (0-6-2, 0-5-0 ACC) certainly kept the wheels turning throughout.
“We’re starting to get in the flow of things,” Lennon said. “Our defense is holding teams. We’re getting shutouts; we’re getting goals. So, we’re meshing pretty well.”
The Cavaliers won their fourth game in a row and extended their unbeaten run to six games with a virtuoso performance. Virginia scored its most goals in a conference game since 2008 and held the Panthers without a shot on goal to win the first ACC matchup between the two teams. Late in the game, the Cavaliers emptied the bench, sending a season-high 22 players into the match and replacing each starter before the final whistle.
Virginia’s last loss came in a Sept. 13 matchup against No. 20 Wake Forest. Since that defeat, in which the Cavaliers scored twice, they have equaled or exceeded that offensive output every game. Their seven consecutive games with two-plus goals make them the first Virginia team to achieve the feat since 2002.
The Cavaliers opened the season with four games against currently-ranked opponents — three of which ended in losses. Now the team is rolling, and is using the lessons it learned from challenging early-season matches.
“To start the game, we went hard,” Virginia coach George Gelnovatch said. “We scored early, and I think that’s because we’ve been in so many hard-fought games where we’re just kind of programmed to start the game that way.”
The gelling Virginia offense has received contributions from players up and down the lineup. While Bird, Madison and Lennon have combined for 12 goals on the year, nine other players have also found the back of the net. Sophomore midfielder Todd Wharton joined that group Friday, giving the 2013 Cavaliers one more goal-scorer through nine games than the team had in the entire 2012 season.
Wharton’s goal in the 42nd minute Saturday put Virginia ahead 3-0 after a dominant first half. His tally was preceded by Lennon and Bird in the 11th and 21st minute, respectively, and was followed by second half goals by Lennon and junior forward Ryan Zinkhan.
“Just like any goal-scoring team, you get in games where you score a couple of goals, which we have, you start to feel better about yourself,” Gelnovatch said. “You know, Riggs Lennon … he’s a goal-scorer. Now he’s scoring goals. Darius is playing really well. He didn’t score tonight, but he’s creating chances.”
The Panthers entered the game without a win in an entire year, and the Cavaliers made clear early that they would not be the source of Pittsburgh’s first breakthrough since Sept. 19, 2012. Lennon scored in the 11th minute when his shot deflected off a Panther defender and bounced by sophomore goalkeeper Dan Lynd.
Bird extended the lead 10 minutes later with a left-footed, one-timer struck from 18 yards out. Wharton scored Virginia’s third goal on a free kick shot over the Pittsburgh wall four minutes before the break.
“[Gelnovatch] said, ‘Take this exactly like we would take any ACC game,’” Lennon said. “We had to come out hard. Our goal was to get a goal early and to keep a clean sheet throughout the game. And so, we came out and scored within the first ten minutes.”
Lennon scored his second goal of the night three minutes into the second half, courtesy of a Madison assist, and Gelnovatch took advantage of the four-goal lead to give minutes to a number of reserves. Junior goalkeeper Calle Brown subbed in for sophomore Jeff Gal in goal for the first time this season, and freshman midfielder-defender Chris Moke and junior defender Grant Silvester also played their first minutes of the year.
“We were able to get a bunch of different guys in, manage minutes, because we’ve got two ACC games coming up Tuesday and Friday,” Gelnovatch said.
Tuesday’s contest is at Duke. Virginia returns home Friday for its last ever regular season conference game against longtime rival Maryland, which joins the Big Ten in 2014.