No. 11 Virginia men’s soccer team battled competitively in a match against ACC semifinalist challenger No. 3 Syracuse Wednesday. Despite a stellar offensive and defensive performance from the Cavaliers (10-4-4, 5-1-2 ACC), who battled the Orange (13-2-4, 5-1-2 ACC) to a 2-2 draw, they were unable to finish the job in the penalty shootout.
In their last meeting Sept. 24, Virginia handed Syracuse its first loss of the season in a narrow 1-0 victory thanks to a goal that came from junior forward Leo Afonso in the final minutes of play.
During Sunday’s game, Virginia came out strong, dominating much of the pace of play early in the first half. Within the first 10 minutes, the Cavaliers nearly put the first goal on the board with a corner from sophomore defender Paul Wiese, setting up a beautiful shot for junior forward Philip Horton. However, the shot was disallowed by the referee.
The momentum began to shift in favor of the Orange, as they asserted themselves in the 27th minute by scoring off a penalty kick. The goal came from Syracuse’s junior midfielder Jeorgio Kocevski, whose shot narrowly sailed past the outstretched hands of junior goalkeeper Holden Brown into the top left corner of the net.
Less than 10 minutes later, the Cavaliers evened the score. The goal came from senior defender Andreas Ueland in the 37th minute, assisted by junior midfielder Axel Ahlander.
Syracuse kept the pressure on as the half drew to a close, but Brown, fittingly named National Player of The Week for his performance against Pittsburgh in the quarterfinal match, stood tall in the net.
The beginning of the second half was all Syracuse, with much of the play occurring deep in Virginia territory.
In the 65th minute of play, Horton and Afonso resuscitated Virginia’s offensive effort, starting with a low shot from Horton to force a diving play from Syracuse senior goalkeeper Russell Shealy. Afonso capitalized on this by placing the ball in the top right corner of the net, putting Virginia ahead 2-1.
Things were looking up for the Cavaliers until Syracuse rallied late in regulation. The goal came in the 83rd minute from Syracuse junior midfielder Lorenzo Boselli, assisted by graduate student midfielder Colin Biros. This tied the score at 2-2, sending the match into overtime.
Two scoreless periods of overtime ensued, in which both teams had opportunities to pull ahead. However, both Brown and Shealy had no intention of letting up, saving each shot attempt that came their way.
The game then went to penalty kicks to decide which team would advance to the ACC Championship.
Syracuse converted on all five of their kicks, while Virginia’s Ueland was unable to deliver in the second frame. Brown also missed an opportunity to deny Boselli’s first penalty kick, guessing the correct side but falling just short of the block. With the final blow coming from Biros, Syracuse clinched the win with a 5-3 shootout score.
Despite an upsetting loss for the Cavaliers, Coach George Gelnovatch remains positive.
“This game feels like a loss, but in the end, it’s a draw and a result like this is ultimately only going to help us,” Gelnovatch said. “I think we came out and played a really even game in the first half, but Syracuse really picked up in the second. Our last two games have been College Cup caliber matches. That’s what the ACC Tournament can feel like. We have another week or so to prepare and get ready to move on to the NCAA tournament.”
The team will now be drawing its attention to the NCAA tournament. The bracket is scheduled to release Monday, with the tournament scheduled to kickoff Nov. 17.