The Cavalier Daily
Serving the University Community Since 1890

Virginia takes down No. 10 North Carolina 1-0 in regular season finale

The Cavaliers struck in the late stages of the match to defeat the Tar Heels

<p>Senior midfielder Mouhameth Thiam scored the game's only goal in the 85th minute Friday night</p>

Senior midfielder Mouhameth Thiam scored the game's only goal in the 85th minute Friday night

In its final game of the 2023 regular season, Virginia men’s soccer squared off against North Carolina Friday night at Klöckner Stadium. In a low-scoring affair, the No. 14 Cavaliers (10-3-3, 5-2-1 ACC) bested the No. 10 Tar Heels (7-3-5, 2-3-3 ACC) 1-0 behind a strong defensive performance.

Coach George Gelnovatch noted the challenges brought on by North Carolina Friday night, emphasizing the importance of his team’s defensive efforts in the victory.

“We played a very good [North] Carolina team that had a lot to play for and they brought it and we had to deal with it,” Gelnovatch said. “The thing I am most proud of about this performance is that we had to defend a lot and we did it as a team.”

The game opened with North Carolina fighting hard on offense, and although it was unable to break through, the Tar Heels forced junior goalkeeper Joey Batrouni into two first-half saves. North Carolina recorded six shots during the first period of play, to just one for Virginia. 

The Cavaliers were able to hold off a persistent North Carolina attack in the first half, as both teams entered the break without a goal. 

In the 69th minute, Virginia had an opportunity to get on the board when freshman forward Stephen Annor Gyamfi – who recently received his second ACC Offensive Player of the Week honor following a dominant performance at Virginia Tech – had the ball near the left post. With teammates available in the box, Gyamfi opted to shoot, and the Tar Heels’ sophomore goalkeeper Andrew Cordes promptly knocked it away. 

Senior midfielder Mouhameth Thiam kept the chance alive with a headed pass down to sophomore midfielder Umberto Pelà, but Pelà’s shot went wide of the far post. 

Pela had another opportunity when he was able to command the ball high up the field, kicking it off a North Carolina player and out of bounds to earn Virginia a corner kick in the 85th minute.

With fans in the stadium creating a high energy environment for the Cavaliers, senior midfielder Axel Ahlander stepped up to kick the ball, driving it into the center penalty area. The ball fell to Thiam just yards from the net, and the senior slammed the ball into the net to put Virginia up 1-0.

Cavaliers fans erupted as Thiam sprinted towards the sideline to celebrate his fifth goal of the season and Virginia’s latest goal of 2023. Thiam has now scored in three of the Cavaliers’ last four games, continuing to prove his value to Gelnovatch’s team. 

“In the second half we were very measured on how we countered,” Gelnovatch said. “In the last 15 minutes of the game [it] kind of felt like we were going to score a little bit. And sure enough, we did with good, aggressive action from the team.”

Virginia defended its lead well for the final five minutes of the match to earn the Cavaliers their fourth consecutive win, a feat they had not accomplished since 2019. Additionally, Virginia is now unbeaten in its last eight games, having last been defeated Sep. 22 by Notre Dame. 

Gelnovatch will be most encouraged by the defensive results Virginia has been churning out during its run of success. The Cavaliers conceded 11 goals in their first 8 games of the season, but they reduced that number to just four in their final eight matches. Gelnovatch has found a backline he is confident in, and Virginia’s players are repaying his faith.

With this victory, the Cavaliers have earned the No. 3 seed in the upcoming ACC Tournament, giving Virginia an automatic spot in the quarterfinal round. The Cavaliers will play the winner of the match between No. 11 NC State and No. 6 Syracuse. 

The match will take place at Klockner Stadium on Nov. 5 and is set to kick off at 2 p.m. The game will be streamed on ACC Network. 


Latest Podcast

From her love of Taylor Swift to a late-night Yik Yak post, Olivia Beam describes how Swifties at U.Va. was born. In this week's episode, Olivia details the thin line Swifties at U.Va. successfully walk to share their love of Taylor Swift while also fostering an inclusive and welcoming community.