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No. 13 women’s soccer defeats SIU-Edwardsville 3-1 in first round of NCAA tournament

After the Cavaliers conceded an early goal, junior forward Alexa Spaanstra scored a brace to advance Virginia to the second round of the tournament.

<p>Junior forward Alexa Spaanstra had two goals for the Cavaliers.&nbsp;</p>

Junior forward Alexa Spaanstra had two goals for the Cavaliers. 

Wednesday marked the 27th consecutive NCAA tournament appearance for No. 13 Virginia women’s soccer, as it faced Ohio Valley Conference champion Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, N.C. The Cavaliers (11-4-2, 5-2-1 ACC) overcame an early 1-0 deficit to beat the Cougars (8-3-2, 8-2-2 OVC) 3-1. 

After a lackluster spring season — with two wins, one tie, one loss and three games cancelled — Virginia entered the tournament ranked No. 13 in the country. Although it pales in comparison to the No. 1-ranked squad of 2019,  the Cavaliers are eager and confident about making a far run in the tournament.  

The match began with high energy and offensive opportunity for Virginia, as they recorded two shots in the first nine minutes. Despite Virginia’s early offensive drive, it was SIU-Edwardsville that was first on the board.

In the 11th minute of the match, the Cavaliers were caught off guard after a quick, deep throw-in in the Cougars offensive third. Sophomore defender Megan Keevan received the throw with her head, and redirected the ball towards sophomore forward Maria Haro who shot it to the far post. Haro’s goal was the third of her season and marked the first NCAA tournament goal for SIU-Edwardsville. 

After countless opportunities, Virginia finally responded and found the equalizer in the 41st minute thanks to junior forward Alexa Spaanstra. Spaanstra drove up the right side of the pitch towards the corner flag before cutting and beating her defender. She then dribbled towards the penalty spot before slotting a diagonal ball in between three Cougar defenders and low into the right side of the goal. This goal was all Spaanstra, and leveled the game going into the half. 

At the end of the first half, Virginia had 14 shots, forcing SIU-Edwardsville sophomore goalkeeper Taylor Spiller to come up with five critical saves. Defensively, the Cavaliers kept the Cougars to a single shot in the first half, which resulted in their only goal.

Virginia looked far more poised in the second half, and did a great job possessing as a team.

In the 57th minute, Spaanstra was on a breakaway in the penalty box and was taken down from behind. This led to a penalty kick— which was taken by Spaanstra — that found that back of the net to put the Cavaliers ahead 2-1.

“Alexa’s been great all year,” Coach Steve Swanson said. “We needed her to step up and she caused problems all night. Her consistent running and movement off the ball is huge for us. Getting the two goals, creating the penalty kick and finishing it and getting the equalizer was huge…She’s been an impact player for us.”

However, Spaanstra’s goals did not end the scoring for Virginia. Just about 10 minutes later, sophomore defender Talia Staude scored a header off of senior midfielder Taryn Torres’ corner kick to solidify the lead. This goal marked not only Staude’s first career goal, but also Torres’ first assist of the season. 

Virginia cruised through the rest of the match having limited SIU-Edwardsville to just one shot during the second half to Virginia’s 11. Virginia tallied an impressive 25 shots during the entirety of the match, far exceeding their game average of 18.1 shots on goal. Furthermore, this was the first time that the Cavaliers scored three or more goals in a game in five matches.

“Any time you can get a win in the NCAA Tournament it’s a good thing,” Swanson said. “Obviously, it’s just about advancing now. It was good to get this game under our belt. They’re a good team and are very competitive. We expected a difficult match and we got it. I was happy with how we came back. We got a better second half and did a good job of closing out the game.

With the win over SIU-Edwardsville, the Cavaliers will advance to the second round of the NCAA Tournament and play No. 12 BYU on Saturday to keep their season alive. Kick-off at WakeMed Soccer Park is set for 3 p.m. and the game will be streamed live on GoHeels TV.