Following its first loss of the season, the No. 2 Virginia women’s soccer team came into its first conference home game of the season searching for a better performance, and Louisville looked to be the perfect opponent for a tune-up game for the Cavaliers (9-1-1, 2-1-0 ACC). Virginia took advantage, as it was able to pull away late for a 2-0 victory Sunday afternoon against the Cardinals (4-3-2, 1-2-0 ACC).
A beautiful autumn afternoon in Klöckner stadium, the Cavaliers’ largest home crowd of the season and head Coach Steve Swanson’s impressive 62-8-13 record in games following a loss before this game meant that the odds were in Virginia’s favor. However, the Cavaliers were pushed hard in this one, and what likely should have been a blowout victory turned into a tight match all the way until the final 15 minutes.
Virginia struggled to control midfield in the first half, and were outshot by the Cardinals at halftime by a five-to-four margin. Perhaps Virginia’s best chance of the first half came on a through ball from freshman forward Maggie Cagle to graduate student forward Haley Hopkins. Hopkins received the ball behind the Louisville defenders at full speed, but her first touch got too far ahead of her and the Cardinals’ keeper was able to corral it.
After a first half that perhaps included a few too many Louisville opportunities for Virginia fans’ liking, the Cavaliers looked to come out of the locker room with the same fire that they did against North Carolina earlier this season. Unfortunately, Virginia continued to be stumped by Louisville’s 3-4-3 formation and struggled to put pressure on the Cardinals.
The Cavaliers needed something to shift the momentum, and the clouds that rolled in during halftime might have done the trick as rain began pelting down. While a large portion of the crowd of nearly 2,000 headed for shelter, Virginia got down to business.
In the 74th minute, Hopkins looked to push the pace and was fouled outside the box, setting up a Cavalier free kick. It would be junior midfielder Alexis Theoret who would take the free kick for Virginia, and she made sure to take advantage. With the rain still coming down, Theoret drilled the ball over the wall of Cardinal defenders into the top left corner for her first goal of the season, giving the Louisville goalkeeper no chance of stopping the shot.
The Cavaliers’ second goal would also come on a free kick shortly after. This time, it would be senior defender Talia Staude to deliver it, and a team that had been looking to get Hopkins to goal number 50 finally got its wish. Staude took this free kick from much farther out, almost to midfield, and could not have placed it better for Hopkins to deliver an incredible header to ice the game.
Hopkins was substituted off shortly after, and the remaining fans who braved the rain gave her a standing ovation as she exited into a throng of high-fives and hugs on the bench.
Virginia spent what was left of the game keeping the ball away from Louisville and running the time out, as they closed out a gritty home win.
Swanson praised his team’s ability to take advantage of the opportunities they were presented with at the end.
“It was not our best performance but you have to credit Louisville for putting good pressure on us on the defensive side,” Swanson said. “We talked about how important set plays were going to be and they proved to be the difference coming from a great strike by Alexis and another good header from Haley.”
With the win, Virginia has now won every match they have ever played against the Cardinals, boasting an 11-0-0 record all time.
The Cavaliers will go back on the road Friday to face No. 5 Duke in Durham, N.C. The match is scheduled for 7 p.m. and will be streamed on ACC Network Extra.