This Sunday, No. 12 Virginia women’s soccer followed its Thursday night victory against West Virginia with a matchup against in-state opponent VCU. The Rams (1-3-2, Atlantic 10) hoped for a strong offensive performance against the Cavaliers (5-0-1, ACC) after a scoreless game against Maryland Thursday. Although VCU put one goal past Virginia’s defense, the Cavaliers held onto an early lead to claim their fourth home win of the season by a margin of 4-1.
Almost immediately, sophomore forward Meredith McDermott put the Cavaliers on the scoreboard. McDermott found a spot to receive sophomore forward Maggie Cagle’s pass from the right side of the field, which McDurmett sent flying past the left side of the Rams goalkeeper in the first minute of the game. The sophomore duo also led Virginia to its first goal against West Virginia Thursday, continuing the fierce performance of underclassmen that has defined this season for the Cavaliers.
A mere four minutes after her assist, Cagle pulled off a goal of her own assisted by senior midfielder Alexis Theoret. Cagle confidently took the ball while being approached by two Rams defenders and made a precise shot towards the far post. After Cagle’s goal, 15 of Virginia’s 16 goals this season have been scored by freshman or sophomore players.
In the 12th minute, a corner kick provided an opportunity for the Cavaliers' offense to strike again. Freshman midfielder Yuna McCormack received the ball off of a corner kick, which she dribbled into the box to take a shot. When her shot was deflected, it went to graduate student defender Talia Staude, who was in the perfect place to finish the job near the net. The Cavaliers then led 3-0 — continuing the trend of building early leads.
The Cavaliers remained a strong force on the offensive and defensive side while VCU stepped up their offensive game. In the 26th minute, the Rams charged into the goal box, but were met with a responsive Virginia defense that stopped the ball from reaching graduate student goalkeeper Cayla White. Soon after the Rams took their first clean shot on goal, which was calmly stopped by White as her first save of the game.
Both the Cavaliers and the Rams finished the first half with intense offensive plays. For Virginia’s sixth shot, sophomore midfielder Jill Falmmia received a pass from senior forward Sarah Brunner up the middle of the offensive zone. Flammia fired the ball high towards the net to strike the crossbar. It was not long until freshman forward Allie Ross got the ball from Theoret in a scramble in front of the net and scored through the top right corner in the 32nd minute. VCU responded to Virginia’s 4-0 lead with several attempts in the goal box following a corner kick. White and her defense held off the Rams’ offense with two more saves and a successful clear out of the box by Cagle.
In the second half, freshman goalkeeper Victoria Safradin took over in goal. In her last competition, Safradin achieved a solo shutout against George Mason, once again demonstrating the strength of the new class of athletes. In an early miscommunication between Safradin and the Cavaliers' defense, the Rams snuck a ground shot into the back of the net, resulting in a score of 4-1. Despite pressure early in the half, the Cavaliers settled in with some clean passes in the midfield with 40 minutes of gameplay left.
After their first goal of the game, the Rams had some clear momentum. They successfully stopped the Cavaliers from an offensive opportunity off a corner kick in the 61st minute and took their seventh shot of the game three minutes later. This shot soared over the top of the net, leaving Safradin unthreatened since the first goal. Soon after, Safradin experienced cramping in the extreme heat and White returned to the net.
The Rams continued their aggression on offense in the middle of the second half, challenging Virginia’s defense. VCU was able to get two shots on goal in 10 minutes, but an impressive performance by White held the Cavaliers to their three-goal lead.
In the 80th minute of the game, Virginia had not seen many scoring opportunities since the first half. The Rams also lost some offensive power but were able to maintain possession during a few minutes of keepaway in the midfield. Once the Cavaliers regained possession, they closed out the game with one more scoring opportunity — Ross took a high shot that sailed over the crossbar as the VCU goalkeeper attempted a dive towards it.
When the clock ran out, the Cavaliers claimed their fifth victory of the season, which was attributed to the first half of the game.
“There were a lot of positives, especially in the first half,” Coach Steve Swanson said. “But this week in both games we’ve kind of lost the momentum in the second half.”
With a focus on carrying their early-game dominance on offense into the second half, the Cavaliers will be set up for success against their opponents later this season. As the underclassmen continue to put points on the scoreboard, the team looks forward to an impressive performance in the future.
Virginia Women’s Soccer next faces Iowa at home Thursday. The game will be broadcast on ACCNX.