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Women’s soccer suffers heartbreaking defeat to UCLA in NCAA quarterfinals

The Cavaliers were outlasted by the top-seeded Bruins in overtime

<p>The spectacular college careers of graduate student forwards Haley Hopkins and Alexa Spaanstra came to a close Saturday night.</p>

The spectacular college careers of graduate student forwards Haley Hopkins and Alexa Spaanstra came to a close Saturday night.

No. 3-seeded Virginia women’s soccer saw its season come to a close at the hands of No. 1 UCLA in heartbreaking fashion Saturday night. The Cavaliers (16-4-3, 6-2-2 ACC) found a second-half equalizer before ultimately conceding the decisive goal to the Bruins (20-2-1, 9-2 PAC 12) in the first period of overtime.

Virginia opened the game in control of possession, generating several chances towards goal in the opening passage of play. In the 10th minute, graduate student forward Haley Hopkins registered the game’s first shot, challenging UCLA graduate student goalkeeper Lauren Brzykcy, who deflected it out for a corner kick.

The Cavaliers continued to apply pressure in the following minutes when a ball was deflected out to senior midfielder Emma Dawson near the top of the box. Dawson was able to make solid contact but the shot went right at Brzykcy for an easy save. 

Less than a minute later, Bruin senior forward Sunshine Fontes — UCLA’s leading goal-scorer — found space, feeding the ball to sophomore forward Lexi Wright just outside the 18-yard box. Wright flicked it onto a streaking Fontes, who fired a shot towards Virginia senior goalkeeper Cayla White. The powerful shot slipped through the hands of White before finding the back of the net to open the game’s scoring in the 15th minute. 

In the 24th minute, Wright netted what appeared to be the Bruins’ second goal — potentially a devastating blow to Virginia’s comeback chances — but the score was disallowed due to an offsides call.

The rest of the first half was played relatively even, with the Bruins getting off three more shots to the Cavaliers’ two. 

Virginia put together a solid chance with under five minutes to play in the half when Hopkins fed the ball to graduate student forward Alexa Spaanstra out wide. Spaanstra took on a couple of defenders before taking a tumble just inside the box. Despite the pleas of several Cavaliers on the field, the referee did not award a penalty kick, ending the opportunity.

Virginia opened the second half once again on the attack. Just two minutes into the frame, junior midfielder Lia Godfrey found freshman midfielder Jill Flammia on a beautiful through ball. However, Flammia’s first touch carried the ball just too far and into the waiting arms of Brzykcy.

Godfrey continued to generate scoring opportunities and in the 53rd minute dribbled down the endline before delivering a pass to Hopkins who squandered the opportunity with a shot that sailed over the crossbar.

In the 66th and 68th minute, Spaanstra and Flammia both produced shots. While neither were truly dangerous, it was a sign of the momentum beginning to shift towards the Cavaliers as they had outshot UCLA 4-1 up to that point in the half.

Virginia found its desperately-needed equalizer in the 75th minute off of a corner kick. Godfrey, who has been masterful on set pieces during her time with the Cavaliers, delivered a perfect cross into the box. Hopkins got her head on the ball and flicked it beyond the reach of Brzykcy for the goal.

The rest of the half was played with each team getting one more solid chance towards goal. In the 82nd minute, White was forced to make a diving save off a shot from freshman midfielder Sofia Cook. 

Just two minutes later, Virginia generated another great chance off a Godfrey to Hopkins connection on a corner kick. This time, though, Brzykcy was able to get in front of Hopkins’ header to prevent another goal.

With the game tied at the end of 90 minutes, the Cavaliers hoped to find a second straight win in overtime after defeating Penn State 3-2 on Nov. 20. However, Virginia did not find the same luck this time around.

After strong play on both sides to open the first overtime period, UCLA found the game-winner in the 98th minute. An attempted header clearance from the Virginia backline found Cook, who needed only one touch with the outside of her right foot to deliver a stunning goal and send the home crowd into a frenzy.

The Cavaliers had a couple chances in the second overtime frame at an equalizer but never truly threatened Brzykcy, ending the contest with a 2-1 Bruin victory.

The heartbreaking loss ended another spectacular season for Virginia as well as the careers as elite attackers like Spaanstra and Hopkins and a number of other key cogs for the Cavaliers. While Virginia still looks for the program’s first national championship, a climb to the pinnacle of women’s college soccer seems inevitable with Coach Steve Swanson at the helm and the talent the Cavaliers are trotting out on the field on an annual basis.

“It was a tough one to lose, obviously,” Swanson said. “We’re really proud of the team, the effort and the tremendous resiliency they’ve shown all season. It was tough to be down at the half, but we got ourselves back in the game. We put ourselves in a good position to win, we just didn’t make the plays down the stretch. We could have easily come out of here with a win and that’s part of why it hurts so bad.”

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