The last time Virginia defeated the number one and number two teams in the nation, it was during the 2014 NCAA Tournament — which Virginia went on to win. Five years later, No. 6 Virginia men’s soccer has done it again, defeating former No. 1 Maryland 2-0 and most recently No. 2 Duke 3-1 en-route to a 4-0 record to start the season.
However, this heavyweight battle didn’t start well for the Cavaliers (4-0, 1-0 ACC). The Blue Devils (4-1-0, 0-1-0 ACC) kicked off the scoring early, with a fourth-minute goal by junior midfielder Kristofer Gardarsson, and continued to pepper Virginia junior goalkeeper Colin Shutler with four shots on goal in the first half.
Nevertheless, after a crucial Shutler save in the 25th minute, junior defender Henry Kessler was able to take advantage of an unsuccessful Duke clearance to convert a half volley from just outside the six-yard box to knot the two teams at 1-1 in the 28th minute. Most notably, this was Kessler’s first goal in his 30 appearances for Virginia.
After halftime, the Cavalier defense — which has only allowed one goal in four matches this season — was able to settle in, restricting Duke to just one shot on goal for the entire second half. On the offensive side, Virginia was by no means playing for a draw, as the Cavaliers continued to push players forward and capitalize on miscues by the Blue Devils.
These mistakes by the Blue Devils proved to be fatal, as junior midfielder Joe Bell was able to pick off an errant Duke pass and slice through the Blue Devil defense before passing to junior forward Nathaniel Crofts who slotted in his second goal of the season to put Virginia up 2-1 in the 59th minute.
However, the Cavaliers didn’t stop there. In the 71st minute, sophomore forward Daryl Dike showed off extraordinary footwork to shake a defender and sent a perfect pass to junior defender Spencer Patton, who coolly scored his first career goal to seal a 3-1 win for Virginia.
After wins against Duke and Maryland, Virginia looks poised to make a deep postseason run. If the Cavaliers are able to continue their stellar defense and electric offense, they could very well be knocking on the door of an eighth national championship come December.
Virginia will now host in-state foe Radford Tuesday, Sept. 17. The game will kick off at 7 p.m. and be broadcasted on ACC Network Extra.