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Virginia women’s soccer to play in NCAA College Cup for the first time in seven years

The Cavaliers upset No. 4 TCU 1-0 to advance to the final four of the NCAA Tournament

<p>The lone goal of the match was scored after a header from senior Lizzy Sieracki sent the ball into the back of the net.</p>

The lone goal of the match was scored after a header from senior Lizzy Sieracki sent the ball into the back of the net.

Unranked Virginia women’s soccer upset No. 4 TCU in a tight, physical match Sunday at WakeMed Soccer Park to advance to the NCAA College Cup. This marked the Cavaliers' (14-4-2, 5-2-1 ACC) third consecutive shutout with the goal from senior defender Lizzy Sieracki and clean sheet by senior goalie Laurel Ivory to end the Big-12 champion Horned Frogs’ (12-2-2, 8-0-1 Big-12) season.

Once again, even in a close game, this Virginia squad looked confident and dominant — far from an underdog position. Even though the first half was scoreless, the Cavaliers did a superb job at maintaining possession and creating offensive opportunities. 

TCU had two early shots on goal — neither on frame — in the opening 10 minutes, but that would be all off the offensive opportunity they had in the first half. It took Virginia a few minutes to settle into the match, but once they did they were able to set the pace of the match and create six shots.

Virginia’s best attempt in the first half came in the eighth minute. Senior midfielder Taryn Torres picked up a pass by TCU before tackling another opponent and gaining possession. Torres drove up the middle of the field before spraying the ball wide to junior forward Alexa Spaanstra who laid a beautifully paced cross behind two Horned Frog defenders to the top of the 6-yard box. Junior forward Rebecca Jarrett was able to connect with the ball but sent it just wide to the right of the frame.

The second half was more physical, with both teams desperately trying to make it on the scoresheet in the high-stakes match. It wasn’t until the 65th minute that the Cavaliers broke through.

Freshman forward Lia Godfrey set up to take a corner kick with less than 30 minutes left in the match. Godfrey sent in a near-perfect ball that found the head of Sieracki who found the back of the net to score her first goal of the season. The header was unsaveable and all the Cavaliers needed to advance into the semifinals. 

“It was great to see Lizzy [Sieracki] score that one,” Coach Steve Swason said. “It was a superb corner kick by Lia [Godfrey]. We’ve been working on our set pieces and it’s moments like that that really make a difference.”

Virginia’s defense has proved to be a critical piece to the team’s success, having only allowed one goal in the tournament thus far. The single goal came in the 11th minute of the Cavaliers’ opening match against SIUE.

TCU had a total of five shots during the match — compared to Virginia’s 11 — but Ivory only had to make two saves. Her most impressive and important save came with just 26 minutes left in the game. 

Senior midfielder Yazmeen Ryan of the Horned Frogs made an impressive drive up the field — getting past several Cavalier defenders — before hitting a left-footed shot from distance. Ivory came in clutch and was able to punch the ball up to hit the crossbar and deflect downwards before fully collecting the ball.

“This was a really good TCU team that caused us problems,” Swanson said. “They are the real deal. They took away some of what we did and I give them a lot of credit. I give our players credit for seeing the game through and getting the victory.”

With the win, Virginia will face fellow ACC member, No. 1 Florida State, in the NCAA College Cup semifinal match. No. 2 North Carolina will also be playing No.13 Santa Clara. The fact that three of the final four teams competing are in the ACC just goes to show what a competitive conference Virginia competes in.

The Cavaliers and the Seminoles played in the fall, in a very close 4-3 Florida State victory. Although Florida State came out on top, Virginia leads the all around record between the two teams with a 21-9-6 record. And while the Seminoles are deservingly the No. 1 ranked team and have been the team to beat all year, the confident Cavaliers have embraced their underdog role and are ready to turn some heads.

“For us to get where we’ve gotten is great,” Swanson said. “We’re proud of that, but we have a bigger goal. We’re trying to do something we haven’t done before and we’re very focused on that at this point in time.”

Virginia has advanced to the semifinals three times prior to this tournament in 1991, 2013 and 2014. Only once in 2014 have the Cavaliers made it to the finals — where they lost to the Seminoles — but a national championship is on Virginia’s mind.

The semifinal match between Virginia and Florida State is scheduled to take place today at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, N.C. Kickoff is scheduled for 6 p.m. and the game will be broadcast on ESPN2.