The No. 3 seed Virginia women’s soccer team (16-3-3, 6-2-2 ACC) earned an impressive win on the road against the No. 2 seed Penn State (15-5-3, 5-3-2 Big Ten) Sunday night. After a 3-1 win over Xavier to set up this match, the Nittany Lions served as the first nationally seeded team that the Cavaliers have faced in this tournament, and they certainly pushed Virginia to the brink.
Coach Steve Swanson was impressed with the resilience his team demonstrated in this match in the wake of an incredibly difficult week following the fatal shooting of three football players — junior wide receiver Lavel Davis Jr., junior linebacker D’Sean Perry and junior wide receiver Devin Chandler.
“We knew it was going to take a lot to win the game and we really had to dig deep to get it,” Swanson said. “We are very proud of the team, the way they battled back twice to equalize, the way they kept fighting on both sides of the ball, the soccer they played and all they had to overcome this week with regard to the tragedy at our University.”
Penn State looked to strike early and get a goal like the ones that have plagued the Cavaliers all season. Within the first three minutes, senior forward Ally Schlegel was on the attack for the Nittany Lions and received a through ball that set her up to score. Fortunately for Virginia, senior goalkeeper Cayla White jumped off her line and covered the ball.
However, Schlegel would later assist the goal that opened the scoring for Penn State. In the 30th minute, Schlegel sent a ball forward to senior forward Payton Linnehan who cut past a diving White and went up the left side before finishing off the goal with an impressive strike.
The Cavaliers played on their heels for the remainder of the first half, but came out of the locker room with much more pressure and assertion on offense, just as they have done all season. Virginia would have 16 shots in the second half compared to the Nittany Lions’ five.
As the clock began to count down on the Cavaliers’ season, it was the freshmen who were the heroes late in the game. First up was freshman midfielder Jill Flammia, who provided the equalizing goal in the 74th minute of regulation. After her initial header on a pass from graduate student forward Haley Hopkins was saved by the keeper and deflected in front of the goal, Flammia was there to collect her own rebound and put it in to tie the game.
Penn State responded well and retook the lead in the 82nd minute. Linnehan shot again, looking for her second goal, but just missed and her shot rattled off the far post. White had already come off her line, however, and freshman forward Amelia White was there to pick up the ball and score the empty-net goal.
In the 88th minute, the Cavaliers were down to their last few chances to keep their season alive, and they turned to someone who has been crucial to their success as a team this year — freshman forward Maggie Cagle. Taking on a defender near the endline, Cagle somehow managed to keep the ball inbounds as the defender on her went down, and she delivered a floater to freshman forward Maya Carter. Carter was placed perfectly in between two defenders to head the ball in and send the game to overtime tied at two.
Cagle was not finished, and she delivered her second assist of the game in the 94th minute during the first period of overtime. This time, she wrapped around her defender and gave a powerful cross to Hopkins on the far side, who put it in the back of the net. This would hold as the game winner. It was Cagle’s seventh game-winning assist of the season and Hopkins’ fifth game-winning goal.
Virginia will now advance to the quarterfinals and take on No. 1 seed UCLA. That match will kick off from Wallis Annenberg Stadium in Los Angeles, Calif. Saturday at 9 p.m.