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Men’s soccer wins Commonwealth Clash, 1-0

<p>Freshman midfielder Derrick Etienne's 12th minute goal gave the Cavaliers a 1-0 over in-state rival Virginia Tech.</p>

Freshman midfielder Derrick Etienne's 12th minute goal gave the Cavaliers a 1-0 over in-state rival Virginia Tech.

Going into the final three games of the season, coach George Gelnovatch and the 16th-ranked Cavaliers men’s soccer team knew they needed a dynamic run to set themselves up for success.

After a 3-1 win over Pittsburgh last week, the Cavaliers (9-3-2, 4-2-1 ACC) traveled to Blacksburg to take on their in-state rival Virginia Tech (5-7-3, 0-4-3 ACC) and continued their strong play with a 1-0 win. Moving to fourth in the ACC, the Cavaliers clinched a critical first-round bye in the conference tournament, which means their quarterfinal matchup will take place at home, at the always-raucous Klöckner Stadium.

The team’s play — as it has been all season — was spearheaded by its freshmen. Although outshot and physically challenged, Virginia was able to push ahead in the 12th minute after freshman midfielder Derrick Etienne weaved his way through three Hokies defenders and poked a shot into the far post.

While generally imperative to score first, the goal then meant the Cavaliers were going to have to defend tooth and nail for 78 minutes in a hostile environment to come out with a win the Commonwealth Clash, and they certainly were effective in protecting their lead.

Etienne’s goal was the only shot Virginia could muster all half, and over the course of the game they were outshot 13-6. Additionally, they gave up five corner kicks while only earning two of their own.

Sophomore goalkeeper Jeff Caldwell — who has been a consistent anchor in the back of the Virginia defense — matched his career high with five saves, and the clean sheet was his fifth of the season, bringing him into a tie for fifth in the conference.

While the second win in a row was huge for the Cavaliers, potentially more important for their postseason prospects was the return of junior midfielder Riggs Lennon debut of senior defender Scott Thomsen.

Although Virginia hasn’t struggled thus far with depth, to have two experienced players return in time for Friday’s top-10 matchup with sixth-ranked North Carolina and the postseason tournaments will add another level to both the team’s attack and defense.