No. 8 Virginia posts undefeated weekend ACC road trip

The Cavaliers shut out both Louisville and Notre Dame


Junior forward Meghan McCool scored the Cavaliers' only goal against Louisville Oct. 4.

Courtesy Virginia Athletics

The No. 8 Virginia women’s soccer team made their mark this past weekend by defeating Louisville and Notre Dame — two strong conference opponents.

In sharp contrast, each game showcased a different style of play revealing an adaptable Cavalier (11-2, 4-2 ACC) squad absent of vulnerability. Early scoring and formidable defense elevated the Cavaliers to victory against Louisville (10-3, 3-2 ACC), while Virginia’s consistency on both sides of the ball combined with a relentless attack rolled past an embattled Notre Dame (6-8, 2-4 ACC) unit.

In the first performance of the two-game series, the teams — who both had 9-2 records at gametime — squared off and competed in a long, drawn-out, gusty defensive slug. Not the typical match for the offensive-powered Cavaliers, only five total shots were taken, which included low two shots on frame. With a game-winning goal by junior forward Meghan McCool, both Cavalier defense and the impressive goalkeeping by sophomore Laurel Ivory held off the surge by Louisville’s unrelenting offensive attacks preserving a well-deserved shutout — the only scoreless performance by the Cardinals all season. 

"I'm really proud of the team tonight as we beat a very good team in Louisville," Virginia Coach Steve Swanson said. "It was a very competitive game and one where we needed to show some grit and determination, and we did."

McCool notched the only goal of the match in the seventh minute of play off of a pair of passes by freshman forward/midfielder Alexa Spaanstra and sophomore midfielder Taryn Torres. With the help of her teammates, McCool received the ball behind the defense, struck and scored from just outside the 60-yard box. 

Heading into halftime with a 1-0 lead, McCool’s shot on goal was the one and only attempt by Virginia of the period. Louisville had only two shots in the first half, with a threatening strike on goal pushed away by a diving Ivory in the final minutes of the period.

The nailbiter continued into the second half. Around the 60th minute, Louisville failed to score on a pair of chances blocked by Ivory, sealing her fifth shutout of the season. The strength of the Cavaliers’ back line held off the Cardinals down the stretch, picking up the momentous 1-0 victory on the road.

The Cavaliers capped off their stretch of ACC road play in convincing fashion with a 3-0 victory over Notre Dame. With goals from Spaanstra, sophomore midfielder/defender Sydney Zandi and senior Montana Sutton — along with Ivory’s stellar sixth shutout of the year — the Cavalier squad took care of business decisively. 

"We have a lot of respect for Notre Dame and knew it would take a strong performance against them to win the game, especially on the road," Swanson said. "Our team played consistently on both sides of the ball, which factored in the result. But, we also did well on our set plays, both attacking and defending, which proved very important in the result."

The first half of action saw Virginia get on the board in the 18th minute of play. Following a foul just outside the top of the box, Sutton took a free kick, played a through ball on the ground and connected with Zandi for the strike in towards the left post. The Cavaliers showed their offensive prowess by recording six corners and edging the Cardinals 7-2 in shots in the first half. 

In the opening minute of the second half, Sutton — receiving a pass from Spaanstra — fired from distance to extend the Cavalier lead to two. The third goal came less than 20 minutes later in the 65th minute off of another corner kick. Torres served the ball into the box, where Sutton headed it to Spaanstra at the top of the 60-yard box for the goal and the third score of the afternoon. 

The Cavaliers held onto the lead, stringing together their second victory and shutout of the weekend. The player of the match was undoubtedly Sutton by being involved in each scoring opportunity, resulting in a career-high two assists and one goal. An emerging young freshman, Spaanstra recorded her third consecutive match with an assist, along with a few prolific goals.

Up next for the Cavaliers is a home match against the Pittsburgh Panthers next Sunday. This contest is the first of a four-game home streak, closing out the regular season for the Cavaliers. Finishing the season undefeated at home will require strong performances against Syracuse, Florida State and N.C. State.

With hopes of success in postseason play, the Cavaliers will work to solidify their position atop the ACC leaderboard in the coming weeks.

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