Virginia has experienced highs and lows over the past two weekends as it took on four different ranked opponents. The Cavaliers (record) opened ACC play on the road Sept. 17 against the Cardinals (8-1, 2-0 ACC) in a narrow 1-0 defeat before traveling to Ohio State on Sept. 19 and picking up a big 2-1 win against the Buckeyes (6-2, 1-0 Big 10). Days later, Virginia earned its first conference win of the season against the Demon Deacons (4-4, 1-1 ACC) by a score of 3-1 before experiencing a heartbreaking come-from-behind effort resulting in a loss at the hands of the Monarchs (6-2, 1-1 Big East) 2-1 Sunday afternoon.
Game 1 — Virginia 0, Louisville 1
Virginia started off the game with great offensive momentum, notching five shots to Louisville’s four, including four shots on goal. The Cavaliers kept the pressure on into the second half, creating another five shots. Despite holding the attacking edge with 10 total chances, Virginia was unable to convert any of its shots into goals and ended the game scoreless. The Cavaliers also held the advantage in penalty corners, with four to the Cardinals’ one, but couldn’t seem to break the last line of the Louisville defense.
The Cavaliers’ defense was once again the hallmark of Virginia’s performance, as the Cavaliers were able to hold the Cardinals without a goal for the first quarter and didn’t allow Louisville to get a single shot off for the entirety of the second half. In fact, the Cardinals’ lone goal, which came five minutes into the second quarter, ended Virginia’s impressive streak of minutes without allowing a goal at 242.
“That was some great ACC action to open up the conference play,” Coach Michele Madison said. “We saw a lot of good things we did well, and also things that we can really work on that are within our control.”
The Cavaliers were certainly able to compete well with their higher-ranked opponent, and going forward Virginia will look to keep building on strong play from its young core. Four freshmen were in the starting lineup against Louisville, including impact player and striker Taryn Tkachuk — who made her first career start for the Cavaliers — and goalkeeper Tyler Kennedy — who made her second straight start in goal.
“We dug deep today and that we can take with us,” Madison said. “When we win the ball we have to get something from it.”
Game 2 — Virginia 2, Ohio State 1
Similar to its game against Louisville, Virginia started off hot offensively against Ohio State, controlling the flow of the game in the first half. Only this time, the Cavaliers were able to bounce back from their loss and get on the scoreboard. Virginia put eight shots on the statsheet in the first half and was rewarded five minutes into the second period when graduate student back Makayla Gallen deflected a shot from junior back Cato Guesgens into the net. It was Gallen’s first goal of the season and Guesgens’ first assist.
The Cavaliers pushed the tempo into the second half, and Tkachuk doubled Virginia’s advantage five minutes into the fourth period by directing a pass from junior striker Laura Janssen into the corner of the net to bring the score to 2-0. The goal was Tkachuk’s third of the season and saw her jump to second on the team in individual points scored with seven.
Notably, the Cavalier defense kept the Buckeyes scoreless until just two minutes left in the game, when Ohio State finally got on the board and brought the score to 2-1. Even more impressive is the fact that Virginia prevented a goal for much of the second half even though the Buckeyes racked up 14 shots and nine penalty corners. Kennedy, who played the entire game in goal for the Cavaliers, made six saves and once again proved influential in the victory.
“That was a gritty one,” Madison said. “We were able to create a lot of attack opportunities and handle their counterattack, which was dangerous. Makayla Gallen was amazing, giving a monster performance in the backfield.”
Game 3 — Virginia 3, Wake Forest 1
Wake Forest began the match Friday on the attack, shooting three times and earning two penalty corners in the first period alone. Virginia’s defense bent, but didn’t break, until the second period when the Demon Deacons were able to convert their third penalty corner into a goal.
Wake Forest’s lead was short lived, however, as junior midfielder Adele Iacobucci hit the equalizer halfway through the second. The standout from Pennsylvania struck a hard shot off of a Cavalier corner, ricocheting off of a defender’s stick on its way to the top corner of the net. Sophomore striker Laura Janssen continued the momentum, deflecting another corner taken by Guesgens for a goal as the first half reached its conclusion.
On behalf of Virginia’s excellent defensive backs and goalkeeping, the second half remained quiet for the Demon Deacons despite the fact that they outshot Virginia 10-9 in the match. The defense was able to stifle a potent attack by junior midfielder Nat Friedmen who led her team with four shots.
“The team grew in the game,” Madison said. “It was a slow start but they found their wheels and found each other and got connected and took off from there. I thought the back four handled the ball really well.”
In the third period, freshman striker Noa Boterman hit a shot from her knees to extend the Cavaliers’ advantage to 3-1 where it would remain for the duration of the game. Kennedy remained in the cage for the entire game, notching two saves.
Game 4 — Virginia 1, Old Dominion 2
On Sunday afternoon against Old Dominion, Virginia experienced another slow start. Neither team would strike in the first period. This changed early in the second when senior back Amber Ezechiels descended from the top of the circle to put the Cavaliers on top 1-0.
This score would be maintained until late in the game. The Monarchs shot just three times in the first half. Virginia outshot Old Dominion 12-7 through the entirity of the match, but would not find the net again. Senior keeper Cam MacGillivray recorded five saves against the Cavalier attack.
“Our distribution was good,” Madison said. “We didn’t penetrate the circle well and normally we do that, so I wasn’t happy about that. We created chances. It could have easily been five goals for us, but it just didn’t fall in.”
The momentum dramatically shifted with 10 minutes remaining. Sophomore forward Marlon de Bruijne of the Monarchs assisted a breakaway game-tying goal to senior forward Ilse Westera. Minutes later, she struck again off a corner opportunity to put Old Dominion on top where it would stay until time expired.
The loss was disappointing and places Virginia in fourth place in the current ACC standings. However, the biggest opportunities still lie ahead of them. First on the priority list is an upcoming home match versus a Duke team that has been experiencing troubles of their own. The Cavaliers will look to course correct Friday evening at 5 p.m. at Turf Field in Charlottesville.