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Men’s soccer falls to Notre Dame, 1-0

<p>Sophomore goalkeeper Jeff Caldwell had a career-high seven saves against Notre Dame.</p>

Sophomore goalkeeper Jeff Caldwell had a career-high seven saves against Notre Dame.

Following a strong home performance against then-fifth-ranked North Carolina, the fifth-seeded Virginia men’s soccer team had nine days off before returning to action in the ACC tournament against a familiar foe, fourth-seeded Notre Dame.

The 13th-ranked Cavaliers (9-4-3, 4-2-2 ACC) may have experienced some déjà vu from the 2014 tournament, when they took on the Irish (10-3-5, 4-2-2 ACC) in the ACC tournament quarterfinals. As the matchup and locale were the same, so too — unfortunately for Virginia fans — was the result as the Irish triumphed, 1-0.

In the early stages, the match was mostly fought in the midfield, with neither team able to break through — or even threaten — until when sophomore goalkeeper Jeff Caldwell made a tremendous save on a dipping free kick to preserve the clean sheet.

While the Virginia offense looked inept at times throughout, Caldwell’s play kept the hopes of Cavaliers fans alive. His seven saves were a career high and were crucial to keeping Virginia in the game late, as the Irish pressured the Cavalier defense time and again. None were more impressive, though, then an 84th-minute, full-extension, leaping save off a free kick from junior defender Brandon Aubrey.

Just three minutes later, however, Aubrey exacted his revenge as he charged into the middle of the box, unmarked, to head home a corner kick, essentially cementing an Irish victory and leaving the Cavaliers’ destiny in the hands of the NCAA selection committee.

This loss, although difficult, is certainly not an assessment of the Cavaliers season, nor does it preclude them from contending in the NCAA tournament. Last year’s campaign took a similar path — with Virginia losing to Notre Dame in the quarterfinals — and the Cavaliers still finished as College Cup champions in December as the 16th-overall seed.