No. 11 field hockey off to hot start with two wins over Old Dominion and Penn State

Cavaliers round off a difficult opening weekend schedule with wins against two ranked teams

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Senior back Anzel Viljoen helped the Virginia defense hold Old Dominion to zero goals and scored her first goal of the season against Penn State. 

Courtesy Virginia Athletics

The No. 11 Virginia field hockey team took care of both Old Dominion and Penn State this weekend to remain undefeated in 2019. The Cavaliers (2-0, 0-0 ACC) first cruised pass the Monarchs (0-1, 0-0 Big East) Friday before edging the Nittany Lions (0-2, 0-0 Big Ten) Sunday.

Against Old Dominion, junior striker Makayla Gallen led the No. 11 Virginia field hockey team to a dominant victory, scoring two timely goals as the defense held the Monarchs scoreless in Norfolk. 

Senior midfielder Erin Shanahan chipped in a third goal for Virginia as the Cavaliers’ well-rounded attack featured assists by junior midfielder Rachel Robinson and sophomore midfielder Annie McDonough.

Virginia played aggressively on offense, outshooting the Monarchs five to two. The Cavaliers’ offensive scheme was well-executed, as all five shots were on goal, whereas Old Dominion had just one shot on goal over the course of the entire game. 

Though Virginia benefited from excellent passing throughout the game to penetrate Old Dominion’s defense, the Monarchs never cracked the Cavaliers’ backline. 

Sophomore goalie Lauren Hausheer saved the lone shot she faced, her job made easier by the role the entire Virginia defense played in keeping Old Dominion off the scoresheet for all 60 minutes. 

For Virginia, this game was certainly a crucial launching point for what the Cavaliers hope will be a comeback season. The last time these two teams met in 2018, then-No. 21 Old Dominion upset then-No. 8 Virginia in overtime in Charlottesville.

In the second game of the weekend, Virginia defeated Penn State with plenty of dramatic flare in the waning minutes. The Cavaliers dominated the first half until the Nittany Lions gave Virginia all it could handle late in the second half.

“It’s always good to beat Penn State, they’re always in the top 10 in the country and they bring their A-game so you have to be able to meet their aggressiveness and their physicality to be able to maintain ball possession — and we were able to do that today.” said Coach Michele Madison.

Virginia dictated the game’s tempo from the jump, dominating possession of the ball and attacking Penn State’s backline with quick drives. Virginia outshot Penn State eight to four in the first thirty minutes but was not able to capitalize on scoring chances in the first quarter.

Penalty corners provided the greatest offensive leverage for both teams in this matchup. At the 13:21 mark early in the second quarter, a Penn State foul gifted Virginia a corner. Senior back Anzel Viljoen rebounded the initial missed shot from the left side of the goal and slashed the second chance strike past the Penn State backline for her first goal of the season — putting Virginia up 1-0. 

In the third quarter, however, Penn State amped up the attack against a Virginia team that was showing signs of complacency. Virginia only took one shot the entire quarter while Penn State shot six times — a result of Virginia committing two penalties in a span of sixty seconds. Penn State’s ability to keep the ball in Virginia’s half of the field clearly kept the Cavaliers from making any runs to the goal of their own.

In what was seeming to be a quiet finish to a well-defended game, neither side refused to take their feet off the gas pedal in the fourth quarter. Virginia played uncharacteristically uneven defense in the last five minutes, allowing Penn State to capitalize off of a penalty corner to tie the game and momentarily stun the Cavaliers with 3:58 left in the game.

Virginia was quick to respond.

A penalty corner negated a Virginia goal with under three minutes left. However, Robinson quickly put the Cavaliers back on top with a strike on goal that deflected off of a Penn State back and into the net. Robinson’s game-winning goal was her inaugural goal of the season and caps Virginia’s hot start heading into the week.  

“We just had to establish our rhythm again, get our passing game back, don’t go too big, just build [the momentum] up,” Madison said. “It was just ‘pass pass pass.’”

Off the heels of a lopsided win against Old Dominion and a nail biter against Penn State, the Cavaliers are in a prime position to shoot up the rankings ahead of their next matchup.

Up next, Virginia will host UMass Lowell Sep. 6 at Turf Field at home. The game is slated to start at 3 p.m. 

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