CARON: The Commonwealth Clash brings more than victory for Virginia

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Senior center back Kristen McNabb and the rest of then-No. 5 Virginia benefited from a record crowd Friday at Klöckner Stadium. The Cavaliers topped No. 17 Virginia Tech, 2-0, in the rivalry's most recent installment of the Commonwealth Clash.  

Paul Burke | Cavalier Daily

What does a Cavalier hate more than a Blue Devil? A Hokie. Who beat the Hokies? Your Virginia women’s soccer team.

Women’s soccer brought home an ACC-opening win this weekend after their eighth shutout of the season led them to a victory over Virginia Tech. The first of 25 contests against the Hokies this year, this game opened the Commonwealth Clash floodgates.

Capitalizing on a rivalry dating all the way back to 1895, the Commonwealth Clash was inaugurated in 2014 — a head-to-head points-based competition within the 21 varsity sports in which Virginia and Virginia Tech compete against each other. Since it’s inaugural year in 2014, the Cavaliers have been crowned Commonwealth Clash champions both times. With a third conquest in sight, the Virginia women’s soccer team got the ball rolling on Friday.

After facing their first loss of the season against Georgetown, the Cavaliers needed a spark. They needed something to revive the energy and authority they had shown earlier in the season on the field — and this rivalry brought just that.

“The crowd was fantastic tonight and made a big difference,” Virginia head coach Steve Swanson said. “They were the number one reason we had the energy we had tonight. It was fantastic.”

Fans flooded Friday’s game — setting a single-game record of 3,966 fans to top 2013’s record attendance against Florida State. The crowd brought Klöckner Stadium to life, reviving the energy of the women’s team and resuscitating the rivalry that lives within Virginia.

The energy this enmity brings to Virginia sports means more than any trophy, more than any victory could — it shows what it means to be a Cavalier, to take pride in your peers and support your school.

But here’s the thing: we forget this far too often. Maybe we don’t forget it at John Paul Jones Arena or this weekend against Virginia Tech, but what about the 22 other varsity sports Virginia sponsors? What about when football is behind in the third quarter and we abandon our posts on the hill?

Or when we just stop showing up to the student section by the end of the season? By the end of football’s home opener against Richmond, the stadium was a ghost town. When we give up on our team, we take away an essential element of sports: the fans.

Think about the Dallas Cowboys for a second. Since 1997, they have been merely mediocre as a team. But as a fan base, they’ve been phenomenal. Fans come out in masses to AT&T Stadium despite the Cowboys winning woes, and will insist a Super Bowl is just around the corner even though they haven’t won one since I was born.

Cowboys fans support the team through ups and downs — two decades of downs — but too often Cavalier fans forget the importance of rooting our teams on through transitions and tough times. When our teams are playing well, Virginia fans comes out in full force. They showered baseball and men’s soccer with love when they brought home NCAA titles, and rooted for basketball through heartbreaking March Madness games. But when a team hits a long-lasting rough spell or lacks the excitement and the energy of JPJ, Cavalier fans neglect them.

What this weekend’s tremendous turnout for the Commonwealth Clash showed was this: not only will Virginia win the Clash for the third year in a row, but it will win with help from a cheering crowd. The Cavaliers will vanquish Virginia Tech if fans bring the vitality they brought to Klöckner to the rest of the Clash rivalry.

Virginia fans need to be the team’s reinforcements, the extra troops sent to battle. The atmosphere matters just as much as the outcome; the energy and support that packed bleachers can bring to a team was evident in this weekend’s matchup.

The Commonwealth Clash highlights the best of Virginia’s devotees — the epitome of what fans can be for a team. Soccer saw it, Virginia Tech saw it and the Clash will continue to see it as the contest continues.

Beyond the stats and standings, the women’s soccer turnout and triumph brought more than victory to Virginia — it brought back Cavalier pride.

“This crowd tonight was unbelievable,” senior defender Kristen McNabb said. “They really kept us in it.”

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