No. 17 Virginia won two crucial matches this weekend, winning 2-1 over a highly-touted No. 12 Syracuse team on the road Friday before securing a 4-1 victory over Drexel Sunday afternoon. The Cavaliers (10-6, 3-2 ACC) hold fast at third in the ACC standings heading into a clash with No. 9 North Carolina Friday with heavy seeding implications for both the ACC and NCAA tournaments.
Virginia 2, Syracuse 1
The Orange (11-3, 4-1 ACC) entered Friday’s game red hot, standing undefeated in the ACC at the time and riding the momentum of a nine-game win streak. The Cavaliers stifled Syracuse’s attack with a defensive gem. Virginia was able to shut out the Orange in the first half, allowing just two shots. However, the Cavaliers struggled to create opportunities of their own with just three shots, and the score remained 0-0 until nearly the fourth quarter.
Virginia was outshot 6-2 in the third period, but freshman goalkeeper Tyler Kennedy had three of her five saves of the game in the quarter to keep the game scoreless. With 19.5 seconds until the end of the third period, junior midfielder Adele Iacobucci fed a pass to junior midfielder Danielle Husar, who found the open goal to put Virginia on top 1-0. The clutch goal was Husar’s first of the season.
The score held steady until freshman midfielder Noa Boterman capitalized on a penalty corner halfway through the fourth to put the Cavaliers up by two. Feeling the pressure, Syracuse pulled its goalie with 5:29 remaining in order to create an offensive imbalance. The decision was rewarded nearly a minute later, as the Orange turned a penalty stroke into a goal, making it once again a one-score game. Following the goal, Virginia’s defensive back line adapted to the extra attacker and refused to allow another shot until time expired.
“Our defense really wanted it today,” Coach Michele Madison said. “They put the pressure on. They kept the pressure on all over the field.”
Although Syracuse had nearly twice as many shots as the Cavaliers — 15 to Virginia’s 8 — the defense and goalkeeping combined to give the Orange their first conference loss. The Cavaliers have now defeated Syracuse in eight straight matches.
“What an incredible win on Syracuse’s turf against a very good, very dangerous, always-attacking Syracuse team,” Madison said.
Virginia 4, Drexel 1
Virginia returned to Turf Field in Charlottesville Sunday to cap off a stretch of four games in eight days. The Dragons (5-13, 2-3 CAA) have had a difficult season, and the Cavaliers did not make it any easier on them, controlling the majority of the game. Scoring kicked off three minutes into the game as senior back Amber Ezechiels converted a penalty corner to give Virginia a lead it did not yield. Ezechiels now has seven goals this year — good enough to lead the team from the back line.
Virginia continued to apply a steady stream of shots but remained quiet until the first half was nearly completed. Two minutes before halftime, Boterman scored off the rebound of her own initial shot to double the lead.
During the third period, Drexel threatened and scored its first and only goal to make the score 2-1. The Cavaliers responded and took 12 of their 31 shots in the fourth quarter. Sophomore midfielder Anneloes Knol extended Virginia’s lead after following up on a rebound of her own shot for her first goal of the season. The Cavaliers continued to attack, and graduate student back Rachel Robinson converted a penalty stroke deep into the fourth to cap off a comfortable victory. In spite of defeat, the Dragons’ junior goalkeeper Megan Hadfield significantly limited the damage Virginia inflicted with 15 saves. Kennedy had three saves on Drexel’s five total shots.
Madison emphasized her team’s resilience after the game.
“Four games in eight days,” Madison said. “We were tested. The schedule wasn’t in our favor, but I believe it’s important to compete this time of year … grow our game — and we did that today. We will only have pressure situations moving forward and we showed, today under fatigue conditions, we will keep fighting.”
The Cavaliers will need all of their will for the upcoming stretch of games. The team will conclude its regular season at home Friday at 5 p.m. in a pivotal matchup against North Carolina, who sits just beneath them in the ACC standings before tournament play.