Men’s soccer beats NC State, advances to ACC quarterfinals
Virginia gets shot at redemption against Louisville
The No. 17 Virginia men’s soccer team began postseason play Wednesday night with an opening round matchup against North Carolina State to kick off the ACC Tournament. The Cavaliers (10-2-5, 3-2-3 ACC) successfully moved on to the next round of the tournament with a 1-0 win over the Wolfpack (5-12, 1-7 ACC).
“It’s really exciting because it was a really tough game,” Virginia junior midfielder Pablo Aguilar said. “I thought NC State did a great job against us defensively. But honestly, to score that goal and to win and to go through and get the chance to play Louisville again is a great feeling.”
Virginia came into the match undefeated at home this year and was looking to continue its recent hot performance by extending its unbeaten streak to 10 games. The Cavaliers did just that with another closely fought, low-scoring win.
The first half was an offensive struggle for both teams, with neither team scoring a goal. NC State outshot Virginia, 6-5, but neither team had any success connecting on their shots.
The second half of the match picked up right where the first half ended, with both teams continuing to struggle offensively as the Cavaliers and the Wolfpack were locked in a defensive battle. Both teams had opportunities to score but were unable to convert.
However, reminiscent of last week’s win against Duke, the Cavaliers turned the match around and scored another late go-ahead goal courtesy of Aguilar with just over eight minutes left in the second half to take the lead. It was Aguilar’s sixth goal of the season.
“They played me a great ball in,” Aguilar said. “I turned, and I saw Shelly [Sheldon Sullivan] making a great run. I played him through and I think he saw me, tried to get it to me, and luckily the goalkeeper, I think, tipped the ball, and it just landed to me and I had an open net.”
Virginia held onto the lead for the final eight minutes to secure the victory. Virginia coach George Gelnovatch talked about how Virginia’s ability to wear down NC State contributed in the win.
“I think to start the second half, Marcus had a great chance with that header across the front,” Gelnovatch said. “I think we had two great chances to score, and I feel like on one of those we got to score, and then I think you break their spirit a little bit because we had so much of the ball, … and finally we got the goal and it goes into what I call game-state, where you just defend and close the game out, and I think that’s what we did.”
Though it wasn’t Virginia’s best performance of the season, Gelnovatch talked about how during this time of the year, any win comes with a lot of positives.
“We were a little lethargic today, I got to say, but from the other standpoint, it’s November, and when you win in November, it’s a good thing,” Gelnovatch said.
Virginia continued its strong defensive performance as of late and recorded its fifth-straight shutout. Junior goalkeeper Jeff Caldwell continued his dominating play as of late and picked up two saves in the shutout win.
“I think the defense is doing a great job — they’re in good spots at the right time,” Aguilar said. “I think that NC State is a team that crosses in the ball a lot. … I think Jeff Caldwell and the guys in the back are doing great, midfielders are doing great and I think it’s helping us a lot. It’s crucial to win games.”
The Cavaliers will now move on to the ACC quarterfinals and will shift their attention towards the No. 3 seed Louisville. Virginia will return to Lynn Stadium in Louisville, Ky. — the site of their lopsided 6-1 loss to the Cardinals earlier this season — looking to put on a better performance the second time around.
“We’ve tried not to talk about it too much, but there’s definitely rumblings of wanting another shot,” Gelnovatch said. “I think before the pairings even came out, there was, you know, guys wanted the opportunity to go there and do better, so, now we have it.”
That match is scheduled to take place Sunday at 1 p.m.