After Hurricane Ian postponed the matchup from Friday night to Sunday afternoon, No. 2 Virginia came to Durham, N.C. ready to play, scoring an early first half goal to overcome the No. 4 Blue Devils 1-0 in a top-five matchup. The Cavaliers (10-1-1, 3-1 ACC) used their stingy defense and outstanding goalkeeping to hold the powerful Duke (8-3, 3-1 ACC) offense to zero goals despite the Blue Devils’ numerous scoring opportunities.
Virginia got its first look at the goal in the sixth minute when freshman midfielder Maggie Cagle struck the ball with her right foot from just outside the box. The ball flew just over Duke senior goalkeeper Ruthie Jones’ hand and over the crossbar.
Duke responded nine minutes later as star Blue Devil sophomore forward Michelle Cooper found herself with room inside the box as she shot the ball with her left foot, however, senior goalkeeper Cayla White made a comfortable save. White continued her outstanding season Sunday afternoon as she racked up six saves and completed another shutout, her eighth of the season.
The Cavaliers scored the go-ahead goal in the 27th minute on a fast break with graduate student forward Haley Hopkins and junior midfielder Lia Godfrey leading the charge. Godfrey passed the ball forward to Hopkins, who took a few dribbles down the right side of the field before feeding it back to Godfrey inside the box, as she one-touched the ball with her right foot to beat Jones and give Virginia a 1-0 lead.
Despite the Cavalier advantage, Duke dominated possession throughout the game. The Blue Devils outshot the Cavaliers nine to six and Virginia only had two shots on goal. Coach Steve Swanson was proud of the way his team battled in a tough environment to get the win.
“This is a hard place to play, let alone win, so we are proud of the effort from the team,” Swanson said. “They played hard, together and intelligently, which we needed to do in order to get the result.”
Throughout the second half, the Cavaliers continued to weather the storm that was the Blue Devils’ offense. While Virginia only mustered a single shot in the second frame, the Cavaliers hunkered down on defense as Duke desperately searched for the equalizer. However, the Blue Devils couldn’t break through and only gave themselves a handful of chances to score.
In the 87th minute, Duke had a phenomenal chance to tie the game. Off a cross from the far side of the field, graduate student midfielder Mackenzie Pluck found the ball with her head inside the box with nobody around her. However, White continued her amazing afternoon as she made one final stop to secure the victory for Virginia.
Although Virginia’s offensive output was lacking against the Blue Devils Sunday afternoon, it was still able to get the victory on the backs of its goalkeeping and defense. They have now proven they can win not only offensive shootouts, but also defensive struggles, which is a sign of an elite team.
With only one loss on the season and a pair of road wins over top-five opponents — then-No. 2 North Carolina being the other — the Cavaliers continue to show why they can make a deep run in the postseason. There doesn’t seem to be an opponent, regardless of location, that Virginia can’t overcome right now.
The Cavaliers return to the friendly confines of Klöckner Stadium Thursday night when they take on another top-10 opponent in No. 7 Florida State. Kickoff is set for 8 p.m. and will be broadcast on ACC Network.