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No. 4 women’s soccer dominates George Mason in season opener

The Cavaliers outshot the Patriots 37-2

<p>The Cavaliers celebrate after graduate student Alexa Spaanstra notched the first goal of the season for Virginia.</p>

The Cavaliers celebrate after graduate student Alexa Spaanstra notched the first goal of the season for Virginia.

No. 4 Virginia women’s soccer opened its 2022 campaign Thursday with a 3-1 victory over George Mason. While a two-goal victory may not immediately indicate a dominant performance, the Cavaliers (1-0, 0-0 ACC) had their way with the Patriots (0-1, 0-0 A10) on both ends of the field, holding a 37-2 shot advantage.

Virginia brought the energy to start the game, immediately putting pressure on George Mason’s back line. Just over seven minutes into the game, the Cavaliers had already logged four corner kicks and two shots by junior midfielder Lia Godfrey and graduate student defender Sarah Clark.

Throughout the first half, Virginia seemed to be in prime position to notch the game’s first goal, but shot after shot saw the Cavaliers come short of finding the back of the net. With under 10 minutes to play in the half, Virginia had posted 14 shots, with several challenging freshman Patriot goalkeeper Selamawit Caldart.

Finally, in the 38th minute on Virginia’s 15th shot of the game, graduate student forward Alexa Spaanstra delivered the first goal of the season for the Cavaliers. Assisting the goal was junior midfielder Chloe Japic, who took the ball down the end line before finding Spaanstra just outside the six-yard box. Spaanstra then sent a shot across the goal into the far side netting, bringing the home crowd of over 1,100 to its feet.

Spaanstra has been an integral part of the Virginia offense during her time in Charlottesville. Her goal Thursday night marked the 30th of her career, and she’s coming off a season in which she netted seven to finish third on the team in goals. This season, she’ll aim for fifth All-ACC selection after being named to an All-ACC each of her four years as a Cavalier.

Virginia took the 1-0 advantage into the break and immediately came out firing once again. This time though, the Cavaliers reaped rewards much sooner with graduate student forward Rebecca Jarrett taking a cross from freshman midfielder Maggie Cagle before slipping it past Caldart in the 57th minute to extend Virginia’s lead to two goals.

For Jarrett, it was more than just another goal. After notching three goals in just four games to start the 2021 season, she suffered a season-ending injury, putting the rest of her college career in jeopardy. The goal is undoubtedly a positive sign for the Cavaliers, as healthy and full-speed Jarrett is a dangerous weapon for the Virginia attack.

The Cavaliers continued to apply pressure following the goal. Virginia controlled possession and stifled any attacking attempts by George Mason, holding the Patriots without a single shot for over 70 minutes of play.

However, it was George Mason that would strike next. After being awarded a free kick 35 yards from the goal, the Patriots went for goal on the set piece. The shot ricocheted off the crossbar and back into play before it found the waiting feet of freshman forward Josie Stockett, who sent a shot that deflected into the back of the net.

Despite cutting the Cavalier lead in half, George Mason was not able to seize the burst of momentum. Virginia regained control, sending a flurry of shots at Caldart.

In the 86th minute, freshman forward Maya Carter sealed the win for the Cavaliers, one-touching a cross from junior forward Brianna Jablonowski past Caldart for the goal, giving Virginia a safe 3-1 advantage with only minutes to play.

The Cavaliers closed out the victory, taking the first step towards avenging their premature exit from the 2021 NCAA Tournament. 

“There was a good crowd tonight and a lot of positives from the atmosphere, the environment and just being back at Klöckner,” Coach Steve Swanson said. “It was good to get a win.”

While Virginia certainly would have liked to capitalize more on their opportunities, the dominance on both sides of the field is a positive sign for the team moving forward. 

“There are a lot of things we can work on and I think we’ll be in preseason mode for another couple of weeks even though we’re playing games – we have to keep that in mind,” Swanson said. “I think our quality around the attacking third was lacking a little, but I’m confident we can be better and need to give a little more attention to it.”

The Cavaliers will be back in action Sunday night at 6 p.m. when they host Loyola Maryland. The game will be televised live on ACC Network Extra.

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