Women's soccer cruises to two weekend wins
No. 3 Cavaliers conclude homestand with wins against Richmond, Villanova
The third-ranked Virginia women’s soccer team is on a mission, easily dispensing of opponents and controlling play as they remain undefeated after the weekend with a 4-0 win Friday night against in-state rival Richmond and a 5-0 romp Sunday afternoon against Villanova.
Directly following kickoff Friday, the Cavaliers (2-0) came out firing. Following a steal in the midfield, junior forward Brittany Ratcliffe dribbled her way through the Spiders (1-2) defense, nearly putting Virginia on the board in the first minute. This play set the tone for the Cavaliers, who looked to be in total control from the onset.
“I think we had great energy right from the start,” senior forward Danielle Colaprico said. “Once we get into ACC schedule we’re going to have to come out strong from the start because once we play tougher teams you can’t only play a half, you have to play the full 90 minutes.”
In the 19th minute, Colaprico’s cross off of a corner was batted away by Richmond’s junior goalkeeper Emily Kelly, leaving the goal empty. The rebound fell to junior midfielder Alexis Shaffer at the top of the box, who cleanly struck a volley into the right side of the net, not only giving Virginia a 1-0 first half lead but also settling some early-game nerves.
“It made us calm down a little bit, we weren’t expecting them to come out so physical,” sophomore defender Kristen McNabb said, “I think once we got the goal we settled down, played our game, and hit it around a little bit more.”
As the half continued, Richmond’s counter attack became more organized and stronger, forcing sophomore goalkeeper Morgan Stearns into making two difficult saves as well as putting the Cavaliers’ defense into many awkward situations, a problem exacerbated by issues with the team’s communication.
“I think that’s something we’re working on at every practice,” Colaprico said. “Steve stresses all the time that if we don’t communicate we don’t win soccer games but I think it’s going to get better throughout the season.”
Just as a large crowd of students departed the stands in anticipation of free halftime Domino’s pizza, Virginia delivered what could be called Friday night’s dagger.
On the Cavaliers’ seventh and final corner kick of the first half, 36th minute substitute and sophomore transfer Meghan Cox connected on a forceful header to put the Cavaliers ahead 2-0 with just 10 seconds left in the half. Not only did Cox’s first career Cavalier goal double the lead, it also swung the momentum toward the Cavaliers going into the second half.
“Getting that goal and going in at halftime up 2-0 is a different mindset,” coach Steve Swanson said. “I think that was a big goal for us. She [Meghan Cox] gets locked in and she gives us another weapon offensively, especially on restarts. I think she’s scored a couple of goals on restarts for us already.”
The Cavaliers came out in the second half just as strong, if not stronger, than they did in the first half. A beautiful passing play in the 63rd minute from Colaprico and senior forward Morgan Brian set up Ratcliffe at the top of the six-yard box for an easy goal past Kelly, giving Virginia a commanding 3-0 lead.
“After I missed the first wide open net, I thought to myself, ‘Do I remember how to score a goal?‘” Ratcliffe said. “But then after Dani got me the ball and I had a wide open net and it went in, I probably screamed at the top of my lungs and tackled Dani. It was an awesome feeling, I was really happy.”
Just two minutes later, with the Cavaliers seemingly in total control, Brian found junior forward Makenzy Doniak on the right flank with a beautiful lead pass. Doniak beat her marker to the inside and fired a blistering shot on goal. Kelly saved it, but the rebound came out right in front, and Ratcliffe was there to clean it up, calmly slotting the ball in the back of the net for her second goal of the game, and all but closing the door on the Spiders.
“Nice to see Brittany get on the board tonight, they were set up really well — I think she’s one of those players that if we can get her going, she can catch fire and put several in quick,” Swanson said. “Today she kept battling and she’s one of our hardest workers, a real competitor. I think some of that paid off for that second goal.”
Though Virginia dominated most of the play, and improved upon many facets of the game that Swanson felt were lacking, the team still is not yet in midseason form.
“I think we’re a work in progress and I think we have a long way to go yet but we’re moving in the right direction,” Swanson said. “I thought we did some things better on both sides of the ball, so I think there was some progress made from last week. I also feel we can get a whole lot better, that’s our number one objective going forward.”
The Cavaliers had a quick turnaround, taking on Villanova Sunday at 2 p.m. to conclude their season-opening three-game homestand.
Up 2-0 at halftime, Virginia pulled away in the second half with a pair of goals by Doniak, with Ratcliffe assisting on both. Doniak then repaid the favor, assisting on Ratcliffe’s goal in the 63rd minute. The pair leads the team in points this season with eight apiece, each notching three goals and two assists.
Virginia dominated the Wildcats, outshooting them 27-0, and the team has still not yielded a single goal through three games.
The Cavaliers will hit the road, traveling to Tuscaloosa, Alabama to face Alabama Friday at 8 p.m.