No. 14 Virginia weathered the storm Friday at Turf Field in Charlottesville in an intense battle against No. 20 Duke en route to a 3-2 double-overtime victory. The Cavaliers (6-3, 2-1 ACC) were propelled past the Blue Devils (4-6, 0-3 ACC) by senior back Amber Ezechiels who scored two goals in the match.
Virginia wasted no time getting on the board thanks to Ezechiels capitalizing on an early penalty corner. Ezechiels has provided a steady scoring presence for the Cavaliers, and following tonight’s game she leads the team with five goals. Her offensive capabilities as well as stout defensive effort make the 2020-2021 All-ACC First Teamer an X factor on both sides of the ball. Virginia would maintain a 1-0 advantage for the remainder of the first half in a back-and-forth battle between the conference opponents.
The Blue Devils would use halftime to regroup, and senior forward Leah Crouse quickly scored off a rebounded save by freshman goalkeeper Tyler Kennedy. Duke maintained the pressure and took a lead in the fourth quarter after junior forward Hannah Miller converted a pass into a goal, creating a 2-1 deficit for the Cavaliers.
It became Virginia’s turn to rally, with senior back Makayla Gallen hitting the equalizer off a rebounded penalty corner with eight minutes remaining. With the game knotted at 2-2, both teams threatened to score as regulation drew to a close. A Blue Devils corner with a minute remaining was a close call, but the Cavaliers' resilient defense was able to prevent a shot and send the game to overtime.
“The whole game was back and forth,” Coach Michele Madison said. “We threw different presses at them and they threw different stuff at us. We have to keep finding new ways to attack.”
The standstill persisted for the entirety of the first overtime period. Virginia received a green card with 1:37 remaining, granting Duke a man-up advantage. Ezechiels received another green card with 15 seconds left, leaving the Cavaliers two players down. Fortunately for Virginia, they were able to withstand the disadvantage into the second overtime period and return to full strength.
Crouse took a shot for the win off of a Blue Devil penalty corner, but missed wide. The teams remained gridlocked until two minutes remained in the second overtime. A forced turnover by junior midfielder Adele Iacobucci turned into a 2-v-1 opportunity for the Cavaliers. Senior midfielder Annie McDonough connected to Ezechiels who fooled the goalie and scored to finish the match.
“Overall I’m just proud of the whole team,” Madison said. “The team was able to adjust from four players in overtime to get back to full strength and then score the goal at the end. This was this great team effort.”
The victory gives Virginia a winning ACC record, and they are now behind only No. 6 Louisville and No. 16 Syracuse in the conference standings. The team will have just under a week to recover from the grueling victory before taking on No. 7 Maryland in a home match on Thursday at 4 p.m.