On a cold November Sunday at Klöckner Stadium, fourth-seeded Virginia closed out its season with a 1-1 (5-3 penalties) loss to Marshall. The Cavaliers (10-4-5, 5-1-2 ACC), despite registering 20 shots with six of them on goal, were unable to find a winner in regulation time against the Thundering Herd (11-3-4, 4-1-3 Sun Belt). This game was the first for Virginia men’s soccer since the tragic deaths of football players Devin Chandler, D’Sean Perry and Lavel Davis Jr.
Marshall got off to a quick start with an attack down the right side that ended with a shot that was wide left. Minutes later, Virginia earned two corners, but both opportunities failed to test the Thundering Herd’s graduate student goalkeeper Oliver Semmle. A few possessions later, a through ball found junior forward Leo Afonso who was unable to put enough power on the shot to get it past Semmle.
Virginia continued to apply pressure with a shot from senior defender Andreas Ueland that went wide left. The Cavaliers then earned a free kick outside the box, resulting in a header from junior midfielder Axel Ahlander that sailed over the crossbar.
With 22 minutes left in the half, Marshall produced a cross that resulted in a shot that was headed for goal, but was then quickly called off for offside. Virginia then responded with a counterattack on the left-hand side that ended with a shot from Afonso that was saved.
Five minutes later, freshman defender Reese Miller received a through ball on the left-hand side. Miller squeaked past his defender before crossing the ball to junior forward Philip Horton in the middle of the field who tapped it past Semmle to put the Cavaliers up 1-0.
The goal empowered the Cavaliers as they began to press the attack. A cross deflected out to junior defender Aidan O’Connor who hit a powerful shot that nearly doubled Virginia’s advantage in the 31st minute. The Cavaliers closed out the half with 11 shots, four of them on goal, as their offense began to come alive.
Virginia opened the half with heavy pressure on the Thundering Herd, but failed to execute any of its chances after Ueland and Afonso both had excellent opportunities. Minutes later, Ueland had another opportunity with a header, but it was just over the net.
Later, Marshall earned its best chance of the game up to that point, after a foul by Ueland set up a free kick right outside the box. The kick was then blocked by the Virginia wall that prevented an equalizer. The Thundering Herd continued to mount the pressure, but struggled to break through the Cavalier defense.
Marshall equalized in the 66th minute. An aggressive attack eventually led to graduate student forward Ibrahima Diop receiving a pass in the box who hit a shot off the crossbar. The ensuing deflection then fell to freshman forward Matthew Bell who buried the goal to tie the game 1-1.
The Thundering Herd continued to apply the pressure, but this time the shot was snatched away by junior goalkeeper Holden Brown. The Cavaliers tried to respond but struggled to piece anything together. As the clock wound down, neither team was able to produce the winner, sending the game to overtime.
The overtime period saw both teams struggle to find offense in a game that continued to hold at a standstill. As the clock wound down in the first overtime period, the Cavaliers earned themselves a corner kick that fell to freshman forward Triton Beauvois who was nearly in on goal before Semmle covered the ball up to prevent any further danger. There would be no further scoring in the second overtime period leading to a penalty shootout.
After two attempts from each team, the score was 2-1 as both Marshall players executed their penalties, with Horton scoring and junior midfielder Daniel Mangarov missing for Virginia. Marshall would not miss, executing all five of their penalties to knock off the Cavaliers 5-3 in the penalty shootout.
It is a tough way to end the season for Virginia, especially following such an emotional week. However, following a pair of underwhelming seasons, the Cavaliers took a step in the right direction this year and appear to be in a good position to grow in the future.
“I think the team is in a really good place going forward,” Coach George Gelnovatch said. “The team has a lot of promise, and this is a building block.”