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No. 8 Virginia women’s soccer defeats Miami in regular season finale

A first-half goal propelled the Cavaliers past the Hurricanes

<p>The Cavaliers earned their third straight win Thursday night, claiming the fourth seed in the upcoming ACC Tournament.</p>

The Cavaliers earned their third straight win Thursday night, claiming the fourth seed in the upcoming ACC Tournament.

No. 8 Virginia took on a struggling Miami team who was looking to close out their season with a marquee win Friday night in Coral Gables, Fla. However, the talented Cavaliers (13-2-3, 6-2-2 ACC) spoiled senior day for the Hurricanes (5-8-3, 2-7-1 ACC) with a 1-0 victory. After an early first-half goal, the Cavaliers used a stellar defensive performance on the back of senior goalkeeper Cayla White which propelled them to victory. 

Miami had an early opportunity to score in the fourth minute when graduate student forward Chloe O’Neill fired off a fast shot with her left foot from just inside the box. White was able to get her fingers on the ball and deflected it just over the crossbar. That would mark the only shot of the half for Hurricanes as they were outshot 8-1 in the opening frame. 

Eight minutes later, Virginia found itself with a scoring opportunity of its own. Junior defender Samar Guidry fired a low cross into the box but the ball was deflected by a Miami defender. Luckily, the ball landed at the feet of graduate student forward Alexa Spaanstra who fired a shot towards the goal. Her shot was deflected as well, fooling senior goalkeeper Melissa Dagenais as the ball landed in the back of the net to give the Cavaliers a 1-0 lead. 

Spaanstra’s goal Friday night gave her 35 for her career, which is good for 10th all time at Virginia while her 104 points is sixth all time in program history. Her goal in the 12th minute was also her second straight game-winning goal.

Early in the second half, the Cavaliers had a great opportunity to increase their lead. In the 46th minute, graduate student forward Haley Hopkins lined a shot up from outside the box. However, the powerful shot from her right foot sailed just over the crossbar. 

Later in the second half, Virginia had another fantastic run towards goal. Graduate student defender Sarah Clark put a cross into the box which eventually found Guidry who gathered the ball and fired a shot towards the net. However, it was an easy save for Dagenais, who had five saves on the night. 

Although the Cavaliers secured a win Thursday night, a concerning trend continued. Virginia outshot the Hurricanes 15-4 while only generating one goal. This has been a common occurrence for the Cavaliers throughout the back half of the season. Virginia will have to figure out how to convert its scoring chances into goals if it wants to succeed this postseason. 

However, it marked both the Cavaliers’ third straight win and third consecutive shutout, certainly a positive development after going winless while allowing six goals in a three-game stretch earlier in October.

Coach Steve Swanson was happy with his team’s performance.

“We had a good start to the game thanks to just an unreal strike from Alexa and the team collectively did well to get the shutout,” Swanson said. “We are happy to finish conference play with a win and look forward to the ACC tournament.”

With the win, Virginia climbed its way to the fourth seed in the upcoming conference tournament. While the Cavaliers undoubtedly have aspirations extending beyond just the ACC Tournament, it will be a great chance to prove that this Virginia team is ready to make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament.

Virginia will take the field again Sunday night in the quarterfinals of the ACC Tournament when they take on No. 11 Duke. The match will kickoff at 8 p.m. and will be broadcast on ACC Network. 

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