Virginia men’s soccer went toe-to-toe with Eastern Tennessee State for the first time in program history Tuesday, playing a match in Klöckner Stadium for the first time in 10 days. The Cavaliers (5-3-1, 1-2 ACC) looked like the better side for much of the game, eking out a 1-0 win over the Buccaneers (3-5-1, 0-0 SoCon) and grabbing their first clean sheet since Aug. 31.
Coach George Gelnovatch was impressed by his team’s performance, emphasizing the effort it took to stave off a talented Eastern Tennessee State team.
“That’s a good win,” Gelnovatch said. “That team is big, strong, organized and athletic and they don’t give you much. We just had to wear them down with consistent passing and movement.”
Gelnovatch made three changes to the team that fell 3-1 to Notre Dame Friday, the most notable of which was the insertion of junior goalkeeper Joey Batrouni for the injured senior goalkeeper Holden Brown. Batrouni conceded three goals in his only other start for Virginia against Loyola Marymount, but the junior came ready to play Tuesday, making a pair of saves on the way to his first clean sheet for the Cavaliers.
As a unit, Virginia came onto the field strong in the opening minutes. The Cavaliers had an opportunity to score within the first five minutes of play when graduate forward Elias Norris passed the ball to sophomore midfielder Albin Gashi, whose left-footed kick was sent just over the crossbar.
Just four minutes later, Virginia had another chance to score when Gashi sent the ball to senior midfielder Daniel Mangarov. However, Buccaneers’ graduate goalkeeper Cole Hunter was able to make a diving save.
The Cavaliers were able to stay in command throughout the rest of the first half, and worked consistently to break down Eastern Tennessee State’s defense. Although Virginia showed strong possession throughout the half, both teams went into the locker room without a goal.
The second half started with a scoreless 15 minutes, which changed when Mangarov charged down the left sideline and crossed the ball into freshman forward Stephen Annor Gyamfi. A leaping Gyamfi powered his header beyond Hunter and into the back of the net, earning his fifth goal of the season and putting the Cavaliers in front. The goal marked Gyamfi’s third header of the season and Mangarov’s second assist of the campaign.
After Virginia got on the board, they were able to spend the last thirty minutes of the match possessing the ball, continuing to make attempts to score. The Cavaliers almost had that chance when Norris caused a turnover and made a run down the left side, but his attempt bounced off the far post and the Buccaneers’ defense was able to clear the ball.
That was the last action of the match, as Virginia coasted to its fifth win in nine matches in 2023. The Cavaliers controlled 63 percent of the game’s possession and outshot Eastern Tennessee State 10-6, scoring in four consecutive games for the second time this season.
While Virginia has shown improved abilities in attack as the season has progressed, they will need to tick things up a notch when they inevitably meet stronger opponents. No. 8 Louisville, No. 18 North Carolina and No. 19 Hofstra all remain on the schedule for the Cavaliers, who must soon figure out how to put the pieces together before it is too late.
Virginia will meet the Cardinals Friday at Klöckner Stadium. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.