No. 6 Virginia hosted No. 5 Penn State Friday night at Turf Field in Charlottesville. After a slow start, the Cavaliers (1-0, 0-0 ACC) found their footing and sent the Nittany Lions (0-1, 0-0 Big Ten) home with a 2-1 loss.
The first quarter saw the Cavaliers dominating the offensive side of the ball, putting up three shots while the Nittany Lions were unable to fire off just one.
After a bit of a lull to start off the second quarter, Penn State freshman midfield Natalie Freeman battled in front of the net. After her first shot was saved by Virginia junior goalkeeper Tyler Kennedy, Freeman picked up the rebound and sent it into the back of the net to give the Nittany Lions a 1-0 lead with roughly four minutes left in the first half.
Clearly not deterred by Penn State’s lead, the Cavaliers came back from halftime firing on all cylinders. Only 1:29 into the second half, Virginia graduate student striker Laura Janssen fired off a rocket of a pass from freshman striker Minnie Pollock to tie the game at 1-1. Last season, Janssen led the team with 12 goals, good for sixth in the ACC. Janssen, like several other members of the Cavalier offensive corps, returned for a fifth year in Charlottesville this season. Time will tell what heights these long-time Cavaliers can reach with an increasingly mature and experienced style of play.
After grinding through the remainder of the third quarter and the vast majority of the fourth, the Janssen/Pollock duo that combined for the first Cavalier goal of the game reunited to score the game-winner with 3:28 left in regulation. Pollock took a pass from Janssen across the net and snuck it past Penn State graduate student goalkeeper Brie Barraco to give the Cavaliers a 2-1 lead. This was the first goal of her collegiate career for the Harrogate, U.K. native.
The final whistle sounded with the Cavaliers in possession of a dominant 18-14 shot lead across the whole match. Of course, this stellar offensive performance was made possible, in part, by multiple gutsy defensive showings. Kennedy racked up six saves and junior midfield Noa Boterman laid it all on the line to tally two defensive saves, as well.
Coach Michele Madison praised her team’s resiliency while hailing this win as a solid step in the right direction for this season.
“I think we had a little first game jitters but once we found our way out of that, we were able to connect some good passes,” Madison said. “There are definitely some things we have to work on of course, but that’s [what] we are able to see against a good opponent like Penn State.”
The Cavaliers, sporting a perfect record, now look forward to hosting Liberty University Tuesday at 5 p.m. at Turf Field.