No. 3 Virginia upset by Washington State in the second round of the NCAA Tournament

The Cavaliers’ season came to an end Friday after the Cougars triumphed 3-2 with a late game-winning goal

bb8u2058

Virginia managed to equalize twice during the match, but ultimately couldn't overcome Washington State's pressure and quick transition. 

Courtesy Virginia Athletics

No. 3 Virginia fell to Washington State 3-2 in a hard-fought battle Friday night at Klockner Stadium. The Cavaliers (17-2-3, 6-0-3 ACC), who have dominated opponents throughout the season, couldn’t generate enough scoring drives to counter the Cougar (14-6-1, 5-5-1 Pac-12) attack. 

After defeating No. 14 Memphis 1-0 last week in the first round of the tournament, Washington State recorded its second-straight upset victory. The win came after freshman forward MacKenzie Frimpong-Ellertson scored the game-winner in the 82nd minute to put the Cougars ahead late in the match. 

“We knew this was gonna be a tough game,” Coach Steve Swanson said. “I think they are obviously big, strong [and] fast. As much as we tried to prepare for the pressure, I thought they did a good job of putting us under the gun right away.”

Virginia’s ball movement looked dominant early, but Washington State was able to steal possession off of the Cavaliers’ poor passing. The Cougars caused problems early, testing sophomore goalkeeper Michaela Moran frequently. Virginia edged Washington State 8-6 in shots in the first half, but it was clear that its offense wasn’t making the most of its opportunities in the final third.  

The Cougars played quickly in the first half, and senior forward Morgan Weaver threatened from range as Moran came out of the goal in the 7th minute. The keeper slid to clear the ball away with her foot but landed awkwardly. She had little time to recover, however, as the Cougars continued to press on the attacking front. 

Washington State’s pressure was too much in the 13th minute, and the Cougars were able to get on the board first. Junior forward Makamae Gomera-Stevens served the assist as graduate student midfielder Averie Collins received the ball and traveled through the box. Collins cut the ball across from the left side and it deflected off a Virginia player to slide in past Moran. 

The Cavaliers quickly responded, however, and freshman forward Diana Ordonez buried the equalizer in the 19th minute to tie the score 1-1. Sophomore forward Rebecca Jarrett crossed the ball to senior forward Meghan McCool, who got her foot on the ball to offer a strike at graduate student goalkeeper Ella Dederick. Dederick made the initial save, but Ordonez was there to finish the play as she sent the deflected ball into the back of the net. The goal was the freshman’s 15th on the season. 

Weaver, who had been causing problems throughout the first half, scored in the 31st minute to take the lead back for Washington State. A corner kick led to the opportunity, and junior defender Brianna Alger served the ball just inside the six to junior forward Elyse Bennett, who knocked the ball down to allow Weaver to strike it past Moran.  

Despite being down a goal, Virginia wasn’t lacking in scoring opportunities during the first 45 minutes. The Cavaliers still held the majority of possession, but weren’t able to find enough players in close range to challenge Dederick. 

Virginia came out of the half with a sense of urgency. Jarrett and freshman defender Talia Staude each offered shots at Dederick in the first two minutes of play. The Cavaliers continued to press, chasing the equalizer once again. 

McCool found an opening in the 53rd minute as Washington State raced to transition on defense. The senior converted to tie the score 2-2 off an assist by Jarrett. Jarrett served the ball from just outside the box, sliding it to McCool through traffic. McCool raced to tap the ball in from just outside the goal, and the diving Dederick was unable to make the stop. McCool finished the year with 15 goals, tying Ordonez to lead the team this season.

The Cougars were unrelenting, however, and they continued to counter on offense. In the 59th minute, junior midfielder Sydney Pulver received the ball as she traveled unchallenged into the box. Pulver produced a promising strike, but the ball sailed high and Moran was off the hook. 

With the score tied, tensions were elevated on both sides and Virginia fans rallied behind their team in excitement. Cougar fans grew frustrated at the referee and weren’t afraid to challenge calls as both teams became more aggressive. 

Washington State found the go-ahead opportunity in 82nd minute. Bennett was the first to challenge Moran, who knocked away the attempt, but Frimpong-Ellertson got a hold of the ball, and it trickled past the goal line as Cougar fans erupted. Washington State carried its 3-2 lead through the remainder of the match, upsetting the ranked Cavaliers on their own turf.

Swanson was disappointed with the outcome, but more disappointed to see the season end with such a great group of players. 

“This team has been an amazing group from the get-go,” Swanson said. “I’ve been doing this for 30 years, and this is one of the best if not the best groups of players that I’ve had … You always know that a season is going to come to an end but [I think that] even if we [had] won the National Championship … it would still be disappointing because it’s such a good group to work with.”

related stories