Coming off a hard-fought loss at the hands of No. 4 Maryland last Sunday, the Virginia men's soccer team bounced back last night with a 3-0 win over Mount Saint Mary's before 463 drenched fans on a cold, wet evening at Klockner Stadium.
In a lopsided contest that saw the Cavaliers (3-2-0, 0-1 ACC) outshoot the Mountaineers (1-4-1) by a tally of 26-3, No. 21 Virginia got two goals and an assist from first-year forward Ryan Gibbs and one from his teammate up front, second-year Sheldon Barnes.
Third-year midfielder Ryan Trout pitched in by assisting on both of Gibbs's goals and was a crucial part of the Cavalier attack throughout the game.
Virginia tested Mountaineer goalkeeper Rob Ray right from the opening kickoff, with a flurry of shots that skidded along the wet grass but failed to find the back of the net. The Cavaliers dominated the play from the beginning, working the ball masterfully around a helpless Mount Saint Mary's squad that was content to give chase and could muster up no real attack.
The Cavs finally had something to show for their efforts on offense in the tenth minute. Barnes ripped a shot from just outside the penalty box that flew past Ray's outstretched hands into the right corner of the net. Gibbs and second-year defender Marshall Leonard assisted Barnes's rocket. Leonard served as a defensive stalwart for Virginia and figured heavily into the Cavalier attack as well.
Virginia worked well as a unit, passing the ball exceptionally well in the first half and spreading the field from touchline to touchline thanks in large part to the width provided by Leonard and Trout.
Trout said the Cavs "in the first 45 minutes, played some of the best soccer we've played all year."
Trout's hard work down the right flank was rewarded when he assisted Gibbs with about 17 minutes to go in the first half. He played a ball into Gibbs that beat the attempted Mountaineer offside trap, and Gibbs calmly dribbled around the goalkeeper and put away the Cavs' second goal.
"I think I caught [the Mountaineer defense] sleeping, made a diagonal run and Trout played me a great ball," Gibbs said.
The pair connected again, notching the Cavs' third and final goal only four minutes later. From the right side, Trout served a ball in to Gibbs, who was waiting eagerly in front of the goal and was perfectly positioned to knock it into the back of the net.
As the rains picked up in intensity at the start of the second half, Virginia did the same. Although they were unable to add to their lead, the Cavs applied relentless pressure on the Mountaineers, limiting them to few real chances, and testing Ray frequently.
"Everything was just clicking," Gibbs said regarding his breakthrough game. "I was getting opportunities and I made them count. I have to perform every time I step out on the field, and it was great to get my chance."
Gibbs, in making the most of that chance, impressed Virginia head coach George Gelnovatch.
"The way he was connecting [last night] was excellent; it just took him a little while," Gelnovatch said. "He and Barnes are a handful because they are so athletic and strong."
"Though we didn't play an ACC team [last night], we continue to make improvements and adjustments in the areas we need to get better in," he said. "I was happy with our performance"