No. 1 Virginia men’s soccer suffered defeat by way of penalty kicks against No. 2 Georgetown in the national championship game Sunday night. A back-and-forth game set the stage for a dramatic finish in penalties — a 7-6 decision in favor of the Hoyas (20-1-3, 7-0-2 Big East).
The scoring began early in the tenth minute when an attempted clearance from Georgetown found Virginia junior midfielder Joe Bell at the top of the box. Bell hit a low driven ball that glanced off a defender — sending Georgetown freshman goalkeeper Thomas Romero in the wrong direction — and into the bottom corner of the net to give the Cavaliers (21-2-1, 6-1-1 ACC) the 1-0 lead.
The Hoyas answered minutes later, as a miscommunication between Virginia junior goalkeeper Colin Shutler and freshman defender Bret Halsey allowed Georgetown junior midfielder Paul Rothrock to tap in an easy goal.
In the 22nd minute, Georgetown would take the lead on a perfectly executed set piece. Sophomore midfielder Zach Riviere sent in a cross to junior defender Rio Hope-Gund who headed it straight to the waiting feet of freshman defender Daniel Wu in front of the goal.
The rest of the first half saw a battle for possession with neither team generating any clear opportunities on goal.
After a sloppy start to the second half, Virginia broke through in a big way when sophomore forward Daniel Steedman turned inside the 18-yard box and fired a shot towards the far post and into the back of the net. The 58th-minute goal from Steedman tied the game at 2-2 and injected life into the Cavaliers.
Virginia wasn’t able to seize the momentum as, after scoring opportunities were missed by both teams in the ensuing minutes, the Hoyas seemingly secured the game-winner in the 81st minute.
Immediately after an injury to Virginia senior defender Robin Afamefuna thrust junior midfielder Aaron James into action, Georgetown took advantage, and junior forward Derek Dodson slipped the ball past Shutler on a one-on-one breakaway.
The Cavaliers wouldn’t go away, however, and they showed much of the heart and resiliency that had carried the team to this point in the year. In the 86th minute, freshman forward Axel Gunnarsson sent a ball back across the box to sophomore forward Daryl Dike.
After Dike’s initial header was turned away by Romero, he powered the ball into the top shelf — tying the game with only minutes remaining while bringing his season tally to 10 goals. Despite creating a couple more chances, Virginia couldn't capitalize and the championship game headed to overtime.
The two 10-minute overtime periods saw plenty of action, but neither team was able to produce the game winning goal.
The Hoyas used their own depth to keep fresh legs on the field, while Virginia had no choice but to keep its starters on the field. Near the end of the second overtime period, the physical toll of playing in two intense games only two days apart was painfully clear for the Cavaliers.
After the scoreless overtime periods, the game went to a penalty kick shootout. Each team calmly hit their put five shots in the back of the net to send the national championship game into sudden death. Following a flawless sixth round from both teams and yet another Goergetown score at the top of the seventh round, the pressure was back on Virginia to deliver.
Unfortunately for Virginia fans, Gunnarsson’s seventh-round kick was denied by Romero, and Georgetown began celebrating its first national title in program history.
Despite the heartbreaking finish, the Cavaliers put together a spectacular 2019 season — winning the ACC championship and racking up 21 wins to just two losses.