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No. 5 Virginia women’s soccer’s offense struggles in 0–0 draw against Michigan

The Cavaliers found few quality goal opportunities despite commanding possession

<p>The Cavaliers dueled to a draw against the Wolverines Thursday night.</p>

The Cavaliers dueled to a draw against the Wolverines Thursday night.

No. 5 Virginia women’s soccer managed a couple shots on goal against Michigan in a 0–0 draw Thursday night. The Cavaliers (1–0–0, 0–0–0 ACC) frustrated the Wolverines (0–1–2, 0–0–0 BT) in the midfield, resulting in few attacks in the Cavalier's half. Leading the ambushes were sophomore midfielder Jill Flammia along with freshman midfielder Yuna McCormack.

The Cavaliers ran out onto the field to “Thunderstruck” by AC/DC, an iconic pregame ritual where fans stomp on the bleachers of Klöckner Stadium. Fans were eager to see another Cavalier win in the night’s doubleheader that first featured the men’s soccer team taking down Iona 1–0.

Virginia played its first contest where it did not dominate possession from the opening kickoff. But after the first opening minutes, Flammia’s presence was felt, stealing a ball at midfield and later making a run in Michigan’s box, which resulted in a shot just wide. 

In the 21st minute, sophomore forward Maggie Cagle attacked the Wolverines’ defense deep in their half, tapping the ball to sophomore forward Merideth McDermott. McDermott could not get the ball back to Cagle, who saw the pass roll into the hands of senior goalkeeper Stephanie Sparkowski. McCormack logged a shot a minute later that was blocked.

Virginia also knocked on the door in the 34th minute with a cross that allowed many players a piece of the ball. After Sparkowski secured the ball, Cagle turned toward the referee, slapping her wrist repeatedly to perhaps signal for a missed handball.

The first half ended with a pair of offside calls halting Virginia attacks. Entering the half, Virginia outdid Michigan in total shots, 7–4, and shots on goal, 2–1. 

The second half opened up with a series of free kicks for Virginia. In the 52nd minute, a free kick for the Cavaliers allowed senior defender Samar Guidry to drive a deep ball into the Michigan box, but the pass was too far for a teammate to handle. Two minutes later, a free kick from senior midfielder Alexis Theoret ricocheted out of Michigan’s box.

Cagle took back-to-back free kicks in the 57th and 58th minute. Looking to score, both shots came hot off her foot but launched well high of the goal. 

After these free kicks led to no shots on goal, Klöckner grew quiet. In each of its first two matchups, Virginia tallied five goals and averaged 13.5 shots on goal per game — that dominant offense now appeared fallible. The defense held steady, highlighted by speedy defensive freshman Anyiha Collier.

Both teams saw no shots on goal until the 90th minute. Michigan stole the ball in Virginia’s half, and sophomore forward Kali Burrell found herself one-on-one against graduate student goalkeeper Cayla White. White sprinted out of the goal area to meet Burrell, who fired a shot directly into White’s torso. The ball deflected off to the right for the game-winning save, securing the draw for the Cavaliers.

Virginia ended the game with 15 shots, two shots on goal, and two saves, meaning they totaled zero shots on goal in the second half. However, the contest proved the Cavaliers can be optimistic in their play from their freshman — McCormack’s relentless defending tilted possession the Cavaliers’ way, and Collier shined amidst a strong back line. 

The Cavaliers hope to ignite the offense in their first away game against George Mason Sunday at 6 p.m.