Women's soccer brings the thunder against Marshall
No. 2 Cavaliers extend record home winning streak to 19 games
After two strong preseason wins against Michigan State and VCU, the Virginia women’s soccer team opened its regular season campaign with a thoroughly dominant 3-0 win against the Marshall Thundering Herd (0-0-1) in the first-ever matchup between the two teams.
The No. 2 Cavaliers (1-0-0) opened the 2014 campaign at Klöckner Stadium much like they finished the last one — by handily defeating their opponents. Last season, Virginia outscored its adversaries 42-4 at home, and Friday’s victory gave the 1,757 fans in attendance the sense that this year could play out in similar fashion.
The Cavaliers won their 19th consecutive game at home, extending a school record.
“It’s just so much fun out there,” junior forward Kaili Torres said. “It’s a great field and a great crowd. I think that we really pride ourselves at home. We don’t lose at home — that’s a big goal of ours — so anytime we get to go out there, we love it and we soak it up.”
From the opening kickoff, the Cavaliers controlled play, rarely allowing Marshall’s attack to enter the Virginia half of the field while peppering the Herd goal with shot after shot.
“Our strategy was to really press them hard and keep the ball in their end and to try and play on the flanks more,” coach Steve Swanson said. “We really thought they’d be in front of their goal, so we had to try and get around them.”
Throughout the first half, Virginia’s offense was knocking on the door, fighting through the Herd’s pesky defense but failing to deliver the final pass to set up clear shots on goal. The team’s two senior leaders, Danielle Colaprico and Morgan Brian, were calm, cool and collected in the midfield as they created chance after chance in front of net, leading to 26 shots and nine corner kicks.
“Considering we had 26 shots, we can probably put more of those on target and … we had about 60-something crosses and not enough of them were effective,” Brian said. “It’s a little difficult playing against teams like that, that put all 11 people behind the ball, and I think we’re going to face that a lot this season. We kind of have to get used to that.”
While the Cavaliers were constantly threatening, it took 41 minutes for the offense to break through. They finally did when Brian received a pass from the right flank and found junior forward Makenzy Doniak at the top of the box. Doniak then calmly slotted a right-corner goal past a diving Herd goalkeeper, redshirt junior Lizzie Kish.
“It was a timely goal,” Swanson said. “I felt like we squandered some chances and we were in situations where we could get quality chances, but it never seemed to materialize — so to come up with a goal at that particular point in time was big for us.”
The Cavaliers came out in the second half playing aggressively, with their forwards and midfielders positioned further up the field and creating more scoring chances. However, it was an unlikely cross attempt from Torres, who missed nearly all of the 2013 season with a foot injury, that broke open the second-half scoring and gave the Cavaliers a 2-0 lead.
“I’ve been getting a lot of jokes about this goal,” Torres said. “I was trying to cross it to the back post, not put it in the back post. It’s a goal, so I’ll take it, but hopefully next time I can get that cross in.”
Torres’ return to the lineup has boosted the Cavaliers’ robust attack to potentially become even stronger than it was last season. But her most impressive feat has been her seemingly effortless transition back into soccer after nearly a year away from the game.
“I’m someone who just loves to play [and] loves to compete, and so last year it was really hard for me to watch — but I think it definitely made me hungry and made me want it more,” Torres said. “I don’t take it for granted and I have so much fun out there. It’s great to be back.”
Just three minutes after Torres’ wild goal, yet another member of the potent Cavalier attack — sophomore midfielder Alexis Shaffer — received a pass at the top of the box and fired one of Virginia’s 14 second-half shots on goal. A Marshall defender deflected the ball into the far corner, giving Virginia a 3-0 lead that all but secured a Cavalier victory.
Though Virginia was able to convert three scoring chances, there was a sense in the locker room that the team left opportunities on the field against the Marshall defense.
“I think you definitely see our potential with the number of shots and crosses we’re getting,” Torres said. “We can get those crosses more effective, get more shots in, and kind of all around make it more dangerous, possession with a purpose.”
While the offense was impressive, the defense and goalkeeping proved stout against the Marshall attack. Sophomore goalkeepers Morgan Stearns and Jessie Ferrari combined for the shutout, though they were rarely tested.
The Cavaliers will look to continue their strong early-season play when in-state rival Richmond comes to Klöckner Stadium this Friday at 7 p.m.