Virginia men’s soccer entered Sunday’s match against Loyola Marymount coming off a Thursday victory against Iona, but the No. 15 Cavaliers (1-1, 0-0 ACC) could not make it two in a row at Klöckner Stadium against a feisty Lions (1-0-1, 0-0 WCC) team. Loyola Marymount made it hard on Virginia on both sides of the pitch, but especially on the Cavaliers’ defensive end, where the Lions pushed a trio of goals past the home side on their way to a 3-1 victory in the first-ever matchup between the two teams.
“We didn’t deserve to win,” Coach George Gelnovatch said. “They were a physical, strong, athletic team that came in and took advantage of some big mistakes that we made early in the game.”
The starting lineup for the Cavaliers included graduate student midfielder Jack Singer and junior goalkeeper Joey Batrouni, which marked both of their first starts as Cavaliers. Despite the injection of new life into Virginia’s side, the Lions outshot the Cavaliers 17-11 on their way to a stunning result.
Graduate student Ryan Kingsford led Loyola Marymount to a strong start, scoring within the first two minutes. Kingsford had help from graduate student forward Jovan Prado, who passed the ball across Virginia’s penalty box for the goal.
A short 14 minutes later, Prado fired a shot at Batrouni, who was able to stop the ball with a dive. The rebound, however, found Lions’ sophomore midfielder Lewis Clutton, who promptly doubled the Lions’ lead.
The 2-0 score forced the Cavaliers into a quick response, with Virginia starting to apply more pressure against Loyola Marymount. Senior midfielder Daniel Mangarov and freshman forward Stephen Annor Gyamfi were able to get shots off, but both landed just outside the goalpost.
As the first half drew to a close, senior midfielder Mouhameth Thiam was fouled, giving the Cavaliers an opportunity with a penalty kick. Senior forward and team captain Leo Afonso was able to capitalize, giving Virginia their first goal of the game and Afonso’s first of the season.
The Lions and the Cavaliers jockeyed for position throughout the beginning of the second half, though neither team was able to break through or get shots off. But 30 minutes into the second half, Kingsford scored his second goal of the evening in what was yet another blow to Virginia’s defense.
Batrouni was able to stop a fourth Loyola Marymount goal in the 89th minute when Prado had his penalty kick saved, but time soon ran out on Virginia’s comeback hopes. For the second consecutive season, the Cavaliers had been upset at home within their first two games.
Gelnovatch touched on the need for his team to be sharper right from the opening whistle, emphasizing the importance of staying focused defensively in the game’s first few minutes.
“When you play a team like that, you gift them some goals in the early moments, then you’re fighting off your back,” Gelnovatch said. “That’s definitely what happened.”
If Virginia wants to return to the defensive prowess its fans have come to expect under Gelnovatch, veteran leaders at the back will have to take charge. Senior defenders William Citron and Aidan O’Connor are the Cavaliers’ stalwarts in the backline, and while it’s a lot to ask from just two players of the 11 that take the field each night, the pair must get back to their best before Virginia slips too far.
In addition, getting team captain and senior goalkeeper Holden Brown back into the fold should help the Cavaliers substantially. Brown recorded a clean sheet in Virginia’s opener before heading to the bench, as Gelnovatch understandably wanted to see Batrouni in game action.
But in spite of the worrying events of Sunday night, Gelnovatch rests assured that Virginia will come back and continue to fight throughout the rest of the campaign.
“It’s early in the season,” Gelnovatch said. “We’re better for it, we learn from it, and we’ll get ready for Thursday.”
When Thursday rolls around, the Cavaliers will be looking for a victory against George Mason at Klöckner Stadium. The game is set for 8 p.m. and will be streamed on ACC Network.