​No. 21 Virginia beats in-state foe William & Mary

Men’s soccer extends unbeaten streak to seven with win

The No. 21 Virginia men’s soccer team had a quick turnaround after a thrilling win over No. 2 Notre Dame last Friday. The Cavaliers (8-2-4, 2-2-2 ACC) hosted in-state rival William & Mary for a midweek matchup Tuesday night. Virginia walked away with a comfortable 3-0 win, extending its unbeaten streak to seven games.

The Cavaliers knew that coming off a huge win, they could not overlook the Tribe (7-6-2, 1-3-2 CAA). Junior goalkeeper Jeff Caldwell talked about how the match against William & Mary was just as important as any game Virginia has played thus far.

“Obviously [we had] two huge results against [North] Carolina and Notre Dame, but those games are no more important than getting a result tonight,” Caldwell said.

Caldwell mentioned how, in previous seasons, Virginia has suffered letdowns during midweek play. He stressed the importance of Tuesday night’s match.

“We could have undone some of that hard work if we had a midweek letdown,” Caldwell said. “Seems like every year around this time we have one of those letdowns, and so I think this was a test we needed to pass.”

Virginia scored its first goal about midway through the first half when William & Mary sophomore midfielder Marcel Berry brought down Virginia senior forward and midfielder Marcus Salandy-Defour. Berry was issued a red card and the Tribe were forced to play a man down the rest of the way. Virginia sophomore forward Edward Opoku kicked in the free kick to put Virginia up 1-0.

The Cavaliers didn’t waste any time adding to their lead, with sophomore midfielder Jean-Christophe Koffi scoring just minutes later on a sensational goal from about 30 yards out. Virginia coach George Gelnovatch mentioned how impressed he was by Koffi’s goal.

“What can you say, I mean what can you say,” Gelnovatch said. “It’s a world class goal — I really do think it’s reflective of how we were playing up to that point.”

However, Gelnovatch talked about how he felt the Cavaliers’ level of play dropped after their second goal.

“I think up until where we scored our second goal, we were excellent — really, really good,” Gelnovatch said. “After that I think we were flat. I think the second goal and a man down gave us an excuse to kind of be a little bit less intense.”

However, Gelnovatch made sure to point out that at the end of the day, although the team could have done things a bit better from the time of the second goal onwards, they were able to keep a clean sheet and add to their lead.

“We had a couple other chances and had them pushed back and everything in control, so credit to [Koffi] and a credit to the team for making sure even though we weren’t great after that second goal, getting a third and keeping a shutout,” Gelnovatch said.

The game against William & Mary concluded Virginia’s non-conference schedule. Now, the Cavaliers will look to finish the regular season on a high note with tough matches against Pittsburgh and Duke coming up.

Virginia knows that even with a win Tuesday night, there is still work to do. Gelnovatch talked about the team needing to sustain higher levels of play for longer periods of time — something they could have done better against the Tribe.

“You know we’ve had a lot of Tuesday-Friday, Tuesday-Friday, Tuesday-Friday games, [so] I can’t be too upset with them,” Gelnovatch said. “It’s three goals — three nothing and a shutout — but I think we know we need to be better down the stretch and we’ll regenerate and get ready for a good ACC game against Pitt on Friday.”

With Virginia’s three-game home stand over, the team will now head to Pittsburgh to take on the Panthers this Friday. The Cavaliers will look to continue their current hot streak and extend their unbeaten streak to eight. However, they know they will also need to work to continue to improve.

“I mean ... we’re seven unbeaten,” Caldwell said. “I think we’ve given up two goals in that stretch. Each game is a step further for us.”

The match against Pittsburgh is scheduled for a 7 p.m. kickoff.

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