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No. 3 women’s soccer splits weekend series

Virginia suffered its first loss of the season but rebounded with a win to go 1-1 on the weekend

<p>Senior forward Alexa Spaanstra netted her third goal of the season against Oklahoma.&nbsp;</p>

Senior forward Alexa Spaanstra netted her third goal of the season against Oklahoma. 

In its first game after losing star senior forward Rebecca Jarrett, Virginia faced No. 14 Penn State in a ranked interconference showdown. Unfortunately for the Cavaliers (6-1, 0-0 ACC), an efficient Nittany Lions (5-1, 0-0 Big Ten) offense proved to be too much for a usually disciplined Virginia defense. 

For the first time all season, Virginia conceded the first goal of the game. Senior midfielder Sam Coffey scored her third goal of the season to open scoring for the Nittany Lions, off a feed from junior midfielder Payton Linnehan. 

The Cavaliers, having conceded just their second goal of the season, got right back to work on offense. Just over two minutes after the Nittany Lions got on the board, junior forward Diana Ordoñez netted her sixth goal of the season off a beautiful pass from sophomore midfielder Lia Godfrey. 

Despite a quick response from the Cavaliers, the offense would go cold on their chances the rest of the first half, leaving the door wide open for Penn State. The Nittany Lions took advantage, scoring two more goals before halftime to put them up 3-1.

For Coach Steve Swanson’s squad, the problem was not a lack of opportunities. The Cavaliers sent 14 shots at Penn State, six of which were on goal. On the other side, Penn State only managed five shots on goal but converted on three of them, which proved to be the difference in the first half.

Hoping to rectify some first-half miscues, Virginia came out of the half with a much better response. The defense was better, allowing only four total shots for the entire half. Ordoñez found the back of the net 12:23 into the half to cut the deficit to one, and the Cavaliers were rolling.

However, Virginia could not convert prime opportunities. Once again, the Cavaliers produced 14 shots in the half, but could only convert one of five shots on goal. Penn State would then extend its lead with a Virginia own goal in the 62nd minute and hand the Cavaliers their first loss of the season, 4-2.

It was an uncharacteristic game for Virginia’s defense, who allowed only one goal coming into the game but conceded four against Penn State alone.

Hoping to rebound from a tough performance against the Nittany Lions, Virginia faced Oklahoma in yet another Power 5 interconference matchup. This time, the Cavaliers (7-1, 0-0 ACC) came away victorious against the struggling Sooners (3-4-1, 0-0 Big 12).

By no means did the Cavaliers play their cleanest game of the season, but they did exactly what they needed to do to pull out a win. The biggest victory for Virginia was the return of their stellar defense, which did not play up to the level they are capable of against Penn State.

The unit allowed zero shots in the first half, allowing the Cavaliers offense to press the attack. Virginia did just that, with 10 shots in the first half. Godfrey was eventually able to put the Cavaliers on the board 29:38 into the game with a pinpoint shot from the center of the box, off a pretty feed from senior forward Alexa Spaanstra, who forced a turnover and put the Sooners defense on their heels. 

After going into the half down a goal, Oklahoma managed to convert one of their two shots on goal all game with a strike from senior forward Bri Amos just 1:57 into the second half. 

The poised and experienced Cavaliers did not allow the Sooners to snatch the momentum and continued to play solid all around. The defense pitched a shutout for the rest of the game, and Spaanstra scored just under eight minutes later to secure the victory for good.

Although the Cavaliers did not play their best soccer this weekend, a 1-1 split against two solid programs is not the worst-case scenario for a team that was blindsided by losing their senior leader.

Virginia will hope to ride this momentum into ACC play as it travels to face Wake Forest Friday. The game will be broadcast at 5 p.m. on ACC Network Extra.