The No. 5 Virginia women’s soccer team kept up its hot streak Thursday night by crushing N.C. State 4-0 in the ACC opener for both teams.
The Cavaliers (8-1-0, 1-0-0 ACC) led nearly wire-to-wire, dominating the Wolfpack (5-4-0, 0-1-0 ACC) throughout. Red-hot Virginia carried a 1-0 lead into halftime and secured its eighth consecutive win with a strong second-half performance. The Cavaliers established an insurmountable lead, tacking on three goals in a span of less than 17 minutes shortly after the intermission, and N.C. State never recovered.
Virginia jumped on the board quickly when sophomore defender Olivia Brannon scored off a corner kick just nine minutes into the game. Brannon’s first goal of the season was an indication of how the rest of the night would progress: The Cavaliers would continue to cruise.
“We talked about where we wanted the corners to go, and it went backside,” Brannon said. “Luckily, I was just in the right spot, I got a redirect on it and it went in the back of the net.”
After the quick strike, both teams spent the rest of the second half searching for offensive opportunities. But openings proved hard to find. The teams combined for only five shots on goal in the first half. The Cavaliers almost pulled ahead 2-0 in the 30th minute when a shot taken by freshman forward Makenzy Doniak skimmed past the post.
Doniak seemingly created another chance later in the half, as she appeared to steal the ball from N.C. State redshirt sophomore goalie Victoria Hopkins and finish into an open net, but the play was called off as a foul. The referee’s whistle was a defining feature of the half: The teams combined for 11 fouls.
The second half started much like the first, with Virginia striking early. Senior forward Caroline Miller received the ball off a through pass by sophomore forward Danielle Colaprico. Miller juked the goalie to tap in her fourth goal of the season.
With Virginia up 2-0, Miller was far from finished. The senior scored less than a minute later on a blast from just inside the box, assisted by senior midfielder Julia Roberts.
“We got yelled at a little bit at halftime, and that always inspires me,” Miller said jokingly. “I think we were moving the ball around really well, and it just opened up a lot of space. I thought there was someone on me on the first goal, so I just cut the air. But there was a lot of space.”
Miller’s second tally brought her career total to 30. One of Virginia’s most distinguished attacking players of all time, Miller now sits just outside the list of top 10 goal scorers in Cavalier history. Miller understated her achievement, saying: “That’s my job.”
The Cavaliers kept the offense running despite the luxury of a 3-0 lead that could have allowed them to back off their attacking pressure. Junior midfielder Kate Norbo put the Cavaliers ahead by four in the 73rd minute. Taking a cross from Doniak, Norbo launched a header into the air. The ball hung in the night sky, eventually dropping into the net just beyond Hopkins’ reach.
“I think we talked about trying to get out and get ourselves established again in the second half, and we scored a couple goals to get us clear,” coach Steve Swanson said. “I think that settled us a little bit.”
Swanson returned to the Cavaliers’ bench for the first time this season after coaching the U.S. U-20 national team to a World Cup title. He was glad to have such a promising homecoming.
“This is a special place, and this is a special group of players, so it always feels good to get back home,” Swanson said.
Virginia, which had been platooning junior Danielle DeLisle and sophomore Churchill O’Connell at goalkeeper during the first eight games, played DeLisle all 90 minutes tonight. In 405 minutes of action, DeLisle has yet to concede a goal. The coaching staff, however, said the rotation might continue as the season continues.
“We thought there were certain aspects of the game tonight that were a little more suited to Danielle’s strengths, so we went with her,” Swanson said. “I think Danielle responded really well.”
Virginia now looks to its big Sunday matchup against No. 12 North Carolina (4-2-1, 0-1-0 ACC). The Tar Heels dropped their conference opener Thursday to Maryland in College Park and aim to right the ship in Charlottesville. The Cavaliers have a lot to be confident about going into the game, but they remain wary nevertheless.
“UNC does some things that not a lot of other teams can do, and I think we’ll have to be ready for that,” Swanson said. “It’ll be nice to be at home, and hopefully we can get a good crowd to support us.”