No. 21 Virginia was defeated by No. 10 Denver 1-0 despite registering 13 shots, six of them on goal, Tuesday night at Klöckner Stadium. The Cavaliers (7-4, 3-1 ACC) had two shots that were inches from going into the back of the net, but both were cleared away by the Pioneers (7-2-2, 2-0 SUMMIT), allowing them to secure the shutout. After two straight road wins against ranked ACC opponents, Virginia’s three-game win streak came to an end.
Early on, Cavalier junior midfielder Axel Ahlander tried his luck with a shot from distance that sailed over the net, and Virginia continued to push for the opening goal but continually struggled to break through Denver’s backline. On the other side, the Pioneers crossed two balls into the box, one of which was cleared away right in front of goal by freshman defender Reese Miller.
In the 10th minute, Miller sent a through ball to junior forward Leo Afonso, who was able to register a shot that went just wide after creating separation from his defender. Minutes later, a promising chance for Denver developed when a cross rolled to senior midfielder Aidan O’Toole whose shot was then saved by junior goalie Holden Brown from point-blank range, denying Denver the opener.
As the first half played out, the Cavaliers continued to control possession and put pressure on the Pioneers, which included a total of two yellow cards and six fouls on Denver. With 14 minutes left in the half, an errant pass nearly awarded Denver a chance on goal, but the opportunity was snuffed out after a sliding clearance from senior defender Andreas Ueland.
With five minutes left in the half, Afonso dribbled past his defender down the left-hand side and picked out junior midfielder Daniel Mangarov whose shot curved just over the goal. In response, the Pioneers stormed back with a counterattack that ended with a shot by senior forward Kengo Ohira that rolled directly to Brown. The game then began to pick up pace with freshman midfielder Albin Gashi responding right back with a shot from outside the box for the Cavaliers that tested freshman goalie Isaac Nehme. Virginia closed out the half outshooting Denver seven to four but was unable to find an open goal.
To start the second half, the Pioneers were the first to apply pressure by drawing a free kick that led to a corner. Shortly after, a foul by sophomore defender Paul Wiese inside the box awarded a penalty for Denver. The penalty — taken by junior midfielder Lukas Fisher — was directed to the left side netting, inches past the hands of Brown to put the Pioneers up 1-0 in the 51st minute.
In response, the Cavaliers began to apply the pressure, which included a corner kick that set up a shot for Afonso, whose shot sailed wide. Later, Miller dribbled past his defender on the left-hand side to find Afonso, whose shot was headed towards the bottom left corner, but was cleared off the goal line by a Denver defender.
Minutes later, Wiese sent in a cross towards goal that was snatched in the air by Nehme. On the defensive side, Ueland made multiple interceptions and tackles to thwart any further deficit.
With 18 minutes left to play, a handball foul set up a Cavalier freekick right outside the box. The kick, taken by Wiese, was blocked by the Pioneer wall and resulted in a goal kick. The ensuing goal kick was intercepted by Wiese, who proceeded to cross a ball into Afonso, whose shot failed to have enough power to get past Nehme.
With 10 minutes left, freshman forward Andy Sullins had a header on goal that was, similar to Afonso’s shot earlier, cleared off the goal line to deny the equalizer. In the closing minutes, the Cavaliers were awarded a free kick that led to a scramble inside the box, but the Pioneers managed to clear it out to hold onto the 1-0 win.
The Cavaliers return to action Friday at home against No. 2 Duke. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. for a shot at first place in the ACC Coastal Division.