No. 3 Men’s soccer wins season-opener in extra time

Zinkhan golden goal downs No. 25 Monarchs, 1-0

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The Virginia men’s soccer team started the 2013 season by losing three of its first four matches. So when they took the field Friday night, they were determined to start this season off with a win against visiting Old Dominion.

But a victory for the third-ranked Cavaliers would not come as easily as hoped. After dominating the game and taking 19 shots to the Monarchs’ nine in regulation, Virginia had yet to put one in the net after 90 minutes. Still, the veteran squad remained focused for the golden goal overtime period.

“The coaches told us to be patient — that was the biggest thing,” senior forward Ryan Zinkhan said. “We didn’t want to force it.”

Less than two minutes into overtime, Virginia’s patience finally paid off.

Zinkhan took a pass from senior midfielder Eric Bird and ripped a laser that blew past Old Dominion sophomore goalkeeper Alex Tiesenhausen in the bottom left corner of the goal to give Virginia (1-0-0) the 1-0 victory against No. 25 Old Dominion (0-1-1).

“Bird did all the hard work,” Zinkhan said. “I just had to put it away.”

Even though it took 92 minutes for the Cavaliers to secure their season opening win, the squad controlled the majority of the contest.

Virginia held possession for almost all of the first five minutes, as junior midfielder Scott Thomsen and sophomore forward Riggs Lennon ripped shots that were saved by Old Dominion.

But the Monarchs regained their composure and briefly took control after the early Cavalier run. Old Dominion’s first shot of the game went wide in the 12th minute, but they continued to press. Old Dominion took three corners between the 12th and 15th minutes, but the Cavaliers were able to thwart each try.

From there, the in-state rivals traded blows. The Cavaliers had their chances to score, including a free kick from just outside the box by Thomsen that was saved in the 27th minute.

Virginia made its strongest push for a goal in the final 12 minutes of the half, when Bird’s wide shot set up back-to-back corners for the Cavaliers — their only two of the first half. But the Monarchs withstood redshirt freshman midfielder Paublo Aguilar’s kicks to keep the game scoreless at the half.

The Cavaliers came out firing on all cylinders to start the second half of play. Senior forward Bryan Lima and sophomore forward Lennon took two quick shots for Virginia — both saved in the opening minutes.

Virginia continued to press, missing several close shots — including a diving header by Thomsen — setting up corner kicks. In the first 12 minutes of the second half, the Cavaliers took five shots — matching their total from the first 45 minutes of play.

As the Virginia offense took shot after shot, the Cavalier defense continued to hold its ground. The Monarchs struggled to find many legitimate scoring opportunities throughout the match.

Freshman goalkeeper Jeff Caldwell was only forced to save two shots in his first career start.

“I thought he did well,” coach George Gelnovatch said. “For a freshman goalkeeper, that’s not an easy thing to do. He didn’t have a lot to do, but the little things he did right. I thought it was a very good debut for him.”

Caldwell was largely assisted by his three defenders — senior Kyler Sullivan, and redshirt freshmen Wesley Suggs and Sheldon Sullivan. The trio anchored the back line of the defense, never allowing an Old Dominion attacker to gain a clean look at the goal.

“We’ve been working defensive movements, and I think we did that really well,” Zinkhan said. “The back three were just so tight and it was hard for [Old Dominion] to break us down. We knew if we didn’t give up a goal, we were going to get one.”

Though Virginia’s defense was stout in its debut with the 3-5-2 formation, Gelnovatch still felt something to be desired on offense. Virginia controlled the ball for much of the second half, wearing down a thin Old Dominion defense.

Even with such dominant ball possession, it was not until Virginia’s 20th shot — following seven second-half corner kicks — that they finally scored. Though Gelnovatch said he believes the additions of currently injured starters such as junior forward Darius Madison to the lineup will help those statistics, one win did not sell him completely on the new formation.

“Last year we changed formations after the fourth game, so I think we need to get through a few more games and see where we are and get some people back,” Gelnovatch said.

But the Cavaliers are still confident after defeating a ranked team without a significant chunk of their starting lineup. When Virginia does regain its starting 11 — which the team hopes to do by its ACC opener against Virginia Tech in two weeks — it is ready to take its place once again as a national contender.

“I think we’re a lot more prepared in the beginning of the season than we were last year,” Zinkhan said. “Last year it took us a couple of games to get really fit and organized. Now we’re already starting on our front foot to start the season.”

Virginia’s next match will come against Tulsa Friday at 8:30 p.m. in Tulsa, Oklahoma.


Published August 31, 2014 in Sports









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