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Men’s soccer downs Boston College, falls to Denver in weekend homestand

In the heated defensive match, turnovers cost the Cavaliers the game late in the second half

<p>Junior defender Andreas Ueland played a key role on the defensive side for Virginia, managing to keep Denver at bay for a majority of the first half.</p>

Junior defender Andreas Ueland played a key role on the defensive side for Virginia, managing to keep Denver at bay for a majority of the first half.

Virginia men’s soccer picked up its first win in ACC play against Boston College on Friday night at Klöckner Stadium. Despite an early goal from the Eagles (4-5-2, 0-3-2 ACC), the Cavaliers (4-7-2, 1-4-0 ACC) rebounded with two goals from sophomore forward Leo Afonso to win the game 2-1. 

Boston College jumped out to an early lead in the match, striking first in the sixth minute. Junior midfielder Michael Suski and freshman forward/midfielder Drew Serafino combined for two quick passes before setting up freshman forward/midfielder Aidan Farwell for a one-time shot that curled around sophomore goalkeeper Holden Brown. The goal was the first of Farwell’s career and gave the Eagles a 1-0 lead.

Virginia responded just over ten minutes later with a goal from Afonso to tie the game. Freshman forward Michael Tsicoulias controlled the ball for the Cavaliers around midfield and sent a pass through to freshman forward Kome Ubogo who battled with his defender and got a shot on goal. Afonso then collected the rebound and finished it into an open net. The first half ended with the score at 1-1.

In the 61st minute, a second goal from Afonso broke the deadlock and gave Virginia a 2-1 lead. Graduate student forward Daniel Wright collected the ball on the edge of the box and sent a cross to Afonso who headed the ball into the back of the net. 

Boston College had a couple of chances in the final five minutes, but Brown had two crucial saves to seal the game for the Cavaliers. Brown ended the game with five saves.

“It is good to win,” Coach George Gelnovatch said. “It was a resilient performance, going down a goal early again. This is a young group, and they had a good response, this time we were able to finish. It checks the boxes for a win – you need resilience, you need quality, you need finishing, you need to defend in the last 15 minutes of an ACC game when you are up a goal. We checked all those boxes.”

Denver

Virginia lost 2-1 in their final non-conference game Monday night at Klöckner Stadium against Denver. 

In head-to-head matchups against the Pioneers (7-2-1, 3-0-0 Summit), the Cavaliers favored 1-0 since their first and only meeting in October 2018 when they handed the Pioneers their first loss of the 2018 season. However, last night, Denver handed Virginia its third non-conference loss and seventh total loss of the season after riding the high of their 2-1 win against Boston College Friday.

The game was action-packed as the Cavaliers took six shots total, two shots on goal, made four saves by second-year goalkeeper Holden Brown and fouled 11 times total. The Pioneers took 12 shots, five on goal, made one save and fouled 18 times total.

Despite the raw energy of both teams the entire match, this was a game of defensive coordination and mastery. The times goals were scored were the times that defenders let their guard down or just could not keep fighting the barrage of shot attempts. 

To that merit, the defensive chemistry between defensemen in freshman Paul Wiese, senior Oliver Gerbig, junior Will Citron and junior Andreas Ueland was symbiotic. The first half was “our game,” Wiese said. Virginia had the ball during most of the first half, yet the Denver defense held strong. However, off of an assist from Wiese, graduate student forward Daniel Wright converted a header 20 minutes into the first half, favoring the score toward the Cavaliers 1-0. 

The ecstasy of the advantage, though, soon faded during the second half of the match. Virginia, whose starting lineup was, for the most part, on the younger side, made a few “young mistakes” that cost the game, Coach George Gelnovatch said.

“I mean it's tough,” Wiese said. “It's a hard situation, but for me I just try to be positive, to be a leader, to push the younger guys. The first half was our game. We had the ball, we made the goal. The second half we literally forgot how to play soccer. We got the ball, we kicked it away. Hopefully, we learn [from] this, go on, [keep our] heads up, looking forward.”

The Pioneers came after the Cavaliers with a bundle of aggression right off the bat of the second half. Indeed it was a soccer match, but players from both squads were getting knocked over like bowling pins. 

Nonetheless, where the Pioneers succeeded was not in their slide tackles, but in forcing turnovers. With 10 minutes left in the second half, the Pioneers intercepted the ball and scored, tying the game up 1-1. Subsequently, the game went into overtime, and as Virginia’s energy was already much weaned, Denver scored with five minutes left in the period to win the game.

An obstacle for the Cavaliers was the game fatigue from playing on Oct. 8 to playing again this Monday, and the Pioneers took advantage of it.

“We're a little fatigued from Friday,” Gelnovatch said. “I could see that in the group. This Denver team was pretty content sitting back and letting us attack attack and attack, and trying to catch us on counters, and that was where they were successful with some of their shots and chances. The winning goal was not necessarily a counter, it was a turnover mistake that cost us the game.”

This was the third game Virginia has lost in overtime this season, with its other two overtime matches ending in draws. Gelnovatch noted that the Cavaliers “keep coming up on the wrong side” of overtime games and that they have to “work on it.”

“There was a pretty big mistake and a turnover that cost us the game,” Gelnovatch said. “It was a young guy that we put on late, it happens, but it's another mistake. The goal that [the Pioneers] scored too, to me, may have also been a little bit of a young mistake. This is something we got to get through.”

Next up for Virginia is an ACC bout with NC State on Friday at Dail Soccer Field in Raleigh, N.C. Kickoff against the Wolfpack is set for 8 p.m. and the game will be broadcast live on regional sports networks. 

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