Virginia men’s soccer defeats UNC-Wilmington in overtime

Cavalier’s push home win streak to 19

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Junior forward Eddie Opoku has scored in all three games so far this season.

Fota Sall | Cavalier Daily

No. 12 Virginia continued to roll in front of an amazing home crowd, defeating UNC-Wilmington 2-1 in overtime to move to 3-0 on the young season. Junior defender Sergi Nus hit his second game-winner of the year, this time in a header off a corner from freshman midfielder Faris Abdi.

The matchup was pivotal for both teams who entered the evening undefeated. The Seahawks (3-1-0) entered the season capable of beating any team they played. Virginia (3-0-0) needed to continue to build confidence before beginning ACC play Friday against a tough Syracuse team.

The Cavaliers nearly scored in the first five minutes, a corner striking off the head of sophomore forward Ryan Peterson, but officials waved off the potential score. Virginia had been connecting early offensively in its opening contests, resulting in big point totals.

Junior defender Prosper Figbe had to leave the game early with an injury, the second time in three games and a giant blow to the backline of the team.

“Prosper in our Villanova game had to come out, and Henry [Kessler] went in that game and did great,” Coach George Gelnovatch said. “So in this game, unfortunately we have to see how bad he’s hurt, but [Kessler] did another great job of stepping up … So I give him credit.”

Virginia’s breakthrough came off an assist from freshman midfielder Joe Bell, creating a one-on-one with the keeper for a 29th minute lower left corner finish from blossoming star junior forward Edward Opoku.

Opoku, a MAC Hermann Trophy hopeful, has provided his own goals as well as set up teammates for scoring this season. Gelnovatch moved Opoku to the center of the frontline after the first game and the switch has worked beautifully.

“Eddie [Opoku], gosh, he’s probably the most dynamic guy, one of the most dynamic guys if not the most dynamic in the country slash our conference,” Gelnovatch said. “Any time he gets isolated, like the goal he scored, when he gets on the loose he’s a real handful so I think he’s scored three goals in three games and he’s probably got three assists now too so he’s doing great.”

After Virginia controlled possession the end of the first half and start of the second, UNC-Wilmington was able to break onto the scoreboard in the 68th minute, tying the game up 1-1 on a sloppy dribbler that managed to squeak past the arms of Caldwell into the bottom left corner.

A minor scrum in the 74th minute resulted in yellow cards for both Nus and senior midfielder Pablo Aguilar. Virginia had multiple chances in the 83rd minute to put the game away, but could not find the back of the net. The game entered overtime tied 1-1.

Nus was able to end the game quickly, however, sticking the back of the net in the 94th minute to give Virginia the 2-1 victory. The defender appears to have a knack for stepping up when the team needs him most — scoring big goals from a position that does not normally put up big numbers.

“I think that we are not struggling at all in order to score goals, you know, we scored four the other day, three and now two. And I think that we are comfortable scoring, scoring goals,” Nus said. “I think it’s early in the season yet, it’s a very good start of the season, we are 3-0, and right now we are just focusing on this Friday to start the ACC. A very very tough conference and I hope we get this win.”

The Cavaliers continue their home stand Friday at 7 p.m., facing a difficult ACC matchup against Syracuse. They have the opportunity to push the win streak to 20 at Klöckner Stadium.

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