No. 20 Virginia women’s soccer began ACC play against Louisville Saturday night with a 1-1 draw. After a scoreless draw against Iowa last Thursday, the Cavaliers (5-0-3, 0-0-1 ACC) hoped to come back with a strong offensive performance. Meanwhile, the Cardinals (1-4-4, 0-0-1 ACC) hoped for a draw or a win to end their historical defeated streak in all 11 games against Virginia. Ultimately Virginia’s offense sputtered until late in the match, as the teams split points in their first conference game of the season.
Louisville put a strong emphasis on its defensive side from the start, leaving the Cavaliers with few clean offensive opportunities in the first half. In a corner kick in the 16th minute, sophomore forward Maggie Cagle took a shot towards the Cardinals' net that was quickly deflected by the defense. A second corner kick in the 18th minute was another potential moment for Virginia’s offense to strike, but Louisville remained a force in front of their goalkeeper. Halfway through the first half, Virginia had achieved three shots, and the Cardinals had yet to take any.
With 20 minutes remaining in the half, both the Cavaliers and the Cardinals strengthened their plays on attack. Freshman forward Allie Ross split two of Louisville’s defenders in the box to make a shot toward the left side of the goal, which bounced off of the foot of the goalkeeper. Louisville then substituted five of their offensive players in the 30th minute, hoping for fresh legs on the attacking side. Their defense remained a force, swarming any Virginia player who made an attempt through the middle of the field.
The Cardinals made two defensive blocks against the Cavaliers, who continued attempting moves toward their goal box in the 35th minute. With the constant presence of Louisville defenders in the middle, most of Virginia’s shooting opportunities were made from the side of the field. Two minutes later, Virginia subbed out both Cagle and sophomore forward Meredith McDermott, who each had scored six season goals. With the Cavaliers’ defensive powerhouses on the sidelines, Louisville finished out the first half with a 0-0 tie.
The Cardinals built on their relative success in the first half by dominating on offense early in the second half. A mere two minutes into the half, Louisville took a high shot toward the net, which was headed away by graduate student Lacey McCormack before it could reach the goal. Then in the 50th minute, the Cardinals got another shot off from the right side of the box, which flew just to the right of the net as graduate student Goalkeeper Cayla White dove towards it.
A set piece for Virginia in the 55th minute once again gave them possession on offense. However, an extremely proactive Louisville defense wrestled away any chances that followed for the Cavaliers in the box. Cagle ended up putting one attempt towards the net with a header to the back post, which was caught back up in the swarm of defense. Although Virginia certainly began to see more opportunities on offense, they still were not quite sharp enough to put themselves on the scoreboard.
Soon after the Cavaliers’ brief offensive charge, Louisville secured the first goal of the game off of a set piece. Graduate student defender Lucy Roberts sent the ball firing straight into the back left of the net after a quick assist to make it 1-0. Success against Virginia's force of defense gave the Cardinals some momentum for the rest of the game.
A sense of urgency from Virginia was evident with 20 minutes of gameplay left. In a set piece far from the net, senior midfielder Alexis Theoret was able to chip the ball into the box. However, Louisville’s defense immediately cleared it, preserving their one-point lead.
In the 71st minute, McDermott took possession of the ball and cut into the box for a potential direct shot on goal, which flew high over the crossbar. Two minutes later, Louisville sophomore goalkeeper Erynn Floyd lept high to save yet another shot on goal. Even when McDermott rushed toward the goal from the midfield to position herself behind the goalkeeper, the Cardinals' defense was still able to stop the ball.
Virginia’s one goal to tie it up came unexpectedly with just over 10 minutes left in the game. Cagle sent the ball into the middle of the box among a crowd of defenders, finding McDermott in the right place at the right time. The ball bounced off the outside of McDermott’s cleat and trickled past Floyd, giving Virginia a late point to pull them out of defeat. As the final minutes ticked away, the score was even at 1-1.
The last opportunity for either team to claim the win came from Louisville with under one minute left in the game. They sent the ball high over the crossbar as the clock went down, and the Cavaliers took back possession in the last few seconds of the game, finishing it at a 1-1 draw.
By taking every scoring opportunity possible at the end of the game, the Cavaliers were able to protect their undefeated record this season. However, a lack of finishing power for most of the match led to an underwhelming outcome against a weak Cardinals squad, a common theme across Virginia’s three ties in eight matches. With their first non-win against Louisville in history, Virginia will look to hone in on its offense against increasingly strong defensive teams in future ACC matchups.
The Cavaliers next face North Carolina at Klockner Stadium Thursday. You can catch the game on the ACCNX broadcast.