Virginia men’s soccer welcomed Louisville to Charlottesville Friday for an Atlantic Coast Conference battle at Klöckner Stadium. In their most convincing showing of 2023, the Cavaliers (6-3-1, 2-2 ACC) picked apart the No. 8 Cardinals (6-2-1, 1-2-1 ACC) in a 3-0 win.
16 shots and three goals against a top-10 opponent were music to the ears of Coach George Gelnovatch, who was more than pleased with his team’s display Friday.
“Our record and our team’s performance this season hasn’t necessarily reflected how good we are,” Gelnovatch said. “I thought today was the best total team performance we have put together this season.”
The key factor in that performance was junior goalkeeper Joey Batrouni, who started in his second successive match for Virginia since senior goalkeeper Holden Brown picked up an injury against Notre Dame. Despite six of Louisville’s shots landing on target, Batrouni made all six saves and kept his second-straight clean sheet for the Cavaliers.
Virginia was just as impressive on the other end of the pitch. After the game’s first 15 minutes came and went without much attacking action, freshman forward Stephen Annor Gyamfi broke the deadlock in the 17th minute with his fifth goal in the last five games.
It was a beautifully worked goal for the home side. Senior midfielder Mouhameth Thiam played a slicing through ball into the box for sophomore defender Reese Miller, who quickly worked a pass to Gyamfi for a calm one-touch finish. Only two players in the ACC have scored more goals than the Cavaliers’ freshman prodigy, who is quickly earning national attention.
Virginia was far from finished after Gyamfi’s opener, however. The Cavaliers grabbed full control of the game over the next few passages of play, applying swarming pressure on Louisville.
Virginia was richly rewarded for their efforts in the 31st minute when senior midfielder Daniel Mangarov picked up a pass from junior defender Paul Wiese just outside of the box. Mangarov used a few short dribbles and a quick cut inside to fashion himself space for a shot, which he rolled just past the near post and into the net.
With a two-goal advantage heading into the break, the Cavaliers looked well on their way to a season-defining win. Despite a few good chances fashioned by the Cardinals, acrobatic stops from Batrouni assured Virginia never slipped.
As the game reached its final 20 minutes, the Cavaliers found their dagger by way of junior forward Kome Ubogu. The junior received a long through ball from senior defender Aidan O’Connor and had just Louisville freshman goalkeeper Alex Svetanoff to beat. Ubogu remained composed and put a left-footed strike beyond Svetanoff, netting his first goal of the season and the third of the game for Virginia.
The Cavaliers saw out the remainder of the game comfortably, earning an important conference win that moves them within just a point of the Fighting Irish at the top of the ACC Coastal. With half of the conference season already in the books and another ranked opponent coming to town next week, Gelnovatch knows there is little room for celebration right now.
“The thing now is to build on this belief,” Gelnovatch said. “We have a very good Hofstra team coming in here on Tuesday that we have to prepare for.”
While Gelnovatch’s professional approach is certainly the right move for keeping his team grounded after a week of so much success, Virginia deserves to hear some applause.
The Cavaliers have scored eight goals in their last four games, a stretch that was immediately preceded by just six goals in their first six games. Additionally, after failing to keep a clean sheet for over three weeks in September, Virginia has now shut out back-to-back opponents.
Gelnovatch and company are hitting their stride at just the right time. With a trio of important ACC fixtures soon to come, the Cavaliers will hope a non-conference tuneup Tuesday against No. 19 Hofstra keeps them fresh.
Virginia will host the Pride at Klöckner Stadium, with kickoff set for 7 p.m.