The Virginia women’s soccer team did not freeze – at least not performance-wise – in the Sweet Sixteen spotlight on a frigid Sunday night at Klockner Stadium. In fact, the Cavaliers may have played their best game of the season in a 2-0 NCAA Tournament win against Wake Forest.
(For a free photo gallery from the game, click here.)
“I don’t think people realize how difficult this match was,” UVa coach Steve Swanson said. “Wake is a great team. They are in our conference. They know us. They know our field. They are really organized and very difficult to break down. That was not an easy game. It was one of our best performances of the year, from start to finish. I was happy with how we moved the ball against a quality team that was organized and committed to defending.”
The Hoos, relentless style of play still chugging along in tourney play, dominated the flow of play against the defensive-minded Demon Deacons. Virginia held a 14-1 advantage in shots and 5-2 edge in corner kicks. That helped the team post its 16th shutout of the season, a new school record. The 2007 club finished with 15. The Cavaliers (23-1) have outscored the opposition 75-14.
It took a while for that unending offensive pressure to pay off, but the Cavaliers finally broke through with two quick goals early in the second half. On the first, reserve Alexis Shaffer rocketed a cross into the box that bounced off the frame where Makenzy Doniak tapped it in for a 1-0 lead at 45:30. Doniak now has 19 goals on the season – that’s one short of Caroline Miller’s school record from a year ago.
“We had a lot of chances in the first half, but just couldn’t put it away so to be able to put away that first goal was great. Great cross from Shaff. I think that just started our momentum even more and we were just on fire from there,” Doniak said. She later added: “Shaff crossed it and it hit the crossbar. It came out right at me and I felt like I had it five years before I was able to shoot it, but I just hit it on frame. I had almost an open net. It was a great ball from Shaff.”
The second goal followed in a matter of moments and Shaffer was involved again. time she took a pass from Danielle Colaprico up the right side and fired a sharp diagonal pass into the middle of the box. A hard-charging Morgan Brian gathered that roller and deposited into the lower left corner from 12 feet away. Brian has 15 goals this season. It also represented the seventh NCAA Tournament goal of her career, tying the school record held by Miller.
“I had the player in front of me and I took her one on one. When I looked up, I heard Morgan calling my name so I slotted the ball to her and she finished it perfectly,” Shaffer said. “Morgan is an amazing player so she always seems to spring free from the defenders even if they are marking her so you an always find a slot to find her.”
Swanson credited his assistant coaches with the suggestion to insert Shaffer for the start of the second half. The staff thought Shaffer could put some one-on-one pressure on Wake’s defense and possibly use her strong leg to get some balls into threatening positions near the frame. That hunch paid off in a big way.
“I thought we got the ball in good positions in the first half, but we lacked some quality in service and decision making,” Swanson said. “We thought Alexis could give us more with her ability to take people on and her crossing, so we started her in the second half and it paid off. That first goal was a turning point in the game.”
The Hoos face Michigan on Friday at 7 p.m. for a chance to advance to the College Cup.
Note: The men’s soccer team defeated St. John’s earlier Sunday in NCAA Tournament action. Read about it here.