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No. 2 Virginia women’s soccer suffers first home loss of the season to No. 3 Florida State

A first-minute goal from the Seminoles was the difference-maker in this highly anticipated matchup

<p>Graduate student forward Haley Hopkins challenged the Florida State defense multiple times but could not find the desperately needed equalizer.</p>

Graduate student forward Haley Hopkins challenged the Florida State defense multiple times but could not find the desperately needed equalizer.

A clash between national heavyweights Thursday night ended in a 1-0 loss for No. 2 Virginia to No. 3 Florida State. The Cavaliers (10-2-1, 3-2 ACC) had numerous chances, but were unable to find the back of the net.

From the opening whistle, the Seminoles (9-0-2, 5-0 ACC) took the ball up the left side of the field. Senior forward Jenna Nighswonger tried to pass it left but senior defender Talia Staude blocked the pass for Virginia. Unfortunately, the ball bounced off of Staude’s shin guard to the right side of the field, where junior forward Jody Brown was open to take the shot and score for Florida State.

The Cavaliers did not appear to be fazed by the early goal and immediately went to work creating opportunities. Graduate student forward Alexa Spaanstra got involved in the offense early. She recorded the first shot of the game for Virginia and immediately after made an impressive cross to graduate student forward Haley Hopkins, whose header glided inches over the net.

The connection between Spaanstra and Hopkins continued to look promising, as Hopkins back-tapped it to her behind the defensive line and gave Spaanstra a great chance at an angled shot. However, junior goalkeeper Cristina Roque was there to make the save for the Seminoles.

Florida State’s best chance at a goal after the opening minute came at the 27-minute mark when it had three straight corner kicks. It was a tense few minutes for the Virginia fans who remember that the Cavaliers’ only other loss of the season came on a botched corner. Fortunately, Virginia held strong, clearing it back out the first two times until junior midfielder Lia Godfrey was finally able to take the ball back upfield on the third time.

The Cavaliers continued to create chances as halftime drew near. Junior defender Laney Rouse was fouled outside the box with around eight minutes left in the half and drew a free kick. Virginia’s offensive set pieces were accompanied by the roar of the crowd of over 3,000 who came out to this match, nearly all armed with noisemakers handed out before the game. Klöckner Stadium was truly deafening while the Cavaliers were on offense.

Unfortunately, Virginia was unable to equalize the score going into halftime, but the Cavaliers emerged from the locker room and appeared to double down on their pressure. They gave the Seminoles almost no breathing room as they bombarded the Florida State defense with 15 shots in the second half. 

Virginia had been searching for a Hopkins header all game, and its best chance came in the 53rd minute. Rouse beat her defender and drove up the right side of the field all the way to the line where she delivered a perfect cross to Hopkins, whose header from just a few feet out was miraculously saved by Roque. 

The Cavaliers had two corners in a row immediately after, and the second one gave Hopkins another chance at a header that Roque saved again despite having to see through multiple defenders. Roque made a career-high 10 saves on the evening as she kept Virginia at bay.

Hopkins was substituted in the 70th minute, and the Cavalier offense was unable to find the same type of rhythm they had with Hopkins facilitating it. She checked back in with seven minutes to go, much to the delight of the crowd, and the offense picked right back up.

A flurry of chances ended with a pair of Virginia corner kicks. As the clock wound down, the Cavaliers were unable to get the second one off in time and suffered their first home loss of the season.

Virginia was without starting graduate student forward Rebecca Jarrett for this one, as she suffered an injury the last time out. However, she appeared to be walking around unassisted on the sideline, so there is still hope for a return at some point this season.

Overall, the Cavaliers created some great opportunities to score, and truly dominated possession during the game despite the loss. While Virginia’s chances for an ACC regular season title are likely dashed with two conference losses, it still showed signs of a team that can compete for its first national championship.

“It was a tough loss,” Coach Steve Swanson said. “I thought we had a good effort. For the most part our performance was good, but we were inconsistent at times and against good teams you have to be consistent all the way through. We created enough chances to get goals and we didn’t finish.”

The Cavaliers will look to bounce back from this one when they take on Syracuse at home Sunday. That game will kick off at 2 p.m. and will be streamed on ACC Network Extra.