Virginia Opens with a Win
Thursday marked the 25th installment in the in-state rivalry and Virginia came in riding a 10-game winning streak and riding almost 600 minutes of shut-out ball. Once upon a time, George Mason was a power, winning a national championship in the mid – 80s, and the Patriots won the first five games in the series. Those days are long gone for George Mason – they brought 21 first-time players to Charlottesville – and Virginia took control of the game early.
Virginia won the game 3 – 1 but the stat that will tell you how Virginia’s night went is this: the Cavs took 37 shots. That’s a shot every two and a half minutes. And they only scored three goals. GMU’s keeper, freshman Selamawit Caldart, was called upon to make a pair of decent saves, but most of Virginia’s chances were skied into the back netting. For good measure, Virginia had 15 corners. We never seriously threatened on any of them. This poor conversion rate has long been Virginia’s Achille’s Heel and it was on full display on this night.
It is worrying because this team is loaded:
- Super Seniors Claire Constant, Rebecca Jarrett and Alexa Spaanstra all returned for their fifth year.
- Jarrett deserves her own bullet point because she looks fully recovered from the injury that robbed her of all but four games last year.
- Alexis Theoret proved she can replace the departed Taryn Torres in the middle.
- Haley Hopkins, who transferred in last year, gives Virginia coverage for the somewhat-surprising early departure of Diana Ordonez.
- Cayla White, who muffed her one major play (leading to Mason’s goal) is nevertheless a fine shot-stopper and should be able to replace Laurel Ivory’s quality in goal.
- Last year’s first-off-the-bench forwards Kira McGuire and Cam Lexow appear to have left the team and have been replaced by a bevy of newcomers who had their moments and leave me confident they will bring a greater spark off the bench.
- For the third year in a row, head coach Steve Swanson has brought in an impact transfer, with Chloe Japic (Baylor) performing the honors this year. Japic made the crucial pass to Spaanstra which allowed Virginia to finally break through.
- Defenders Samar Guidry and Laney Rouse gained valuable exposure and experience playing for the national U20 team this summer.
This squad is on the short list of teams that can win it all. It helps that Florida State, Virginia’s nemesis of the past decade, has been gutted by the departure of coach Mark Krikorian and what could have been their contingent of Super Seniors. The team is deep, well coached, and doesn’t make mistakes. But we squander lots of chances in front of goal. This has derailed the team before and it could prove the undoing of the team this year.
Welcome to the Newcomers
Maggie Cagle started the game on the right wing as Jarrett’s is going to have her minutes monitored closely this season. Cagle looked like she belonged and in the second half made the kind of runs that were rewarded by great Spaanstra through balls. Cagle looked like she’d been playing alongside Spaanstra for a couple of seasons, and we haven’t had anyone the past couple of years who will make the hard, overlapping run on the left. She looked good. Cagle got an assist on Jarrett’s second half goal.
Chloe Japic played the most minutes of any second stringer and though she’s listed as a midfielder, she logged time as a defender filling in for the absent Guidry. She had a fine run down the left, delivering a perfect pass that Spaanstra converted for the first goal.
Maya Carter deputized for Hopkins in the center of attack, converted nicely on the best chance, and looked active overall. If you are keeping track at home, that is a goal and a pair of assists from three newcomers. That’s always a good sign.
In the end, all that really mattered is this:
Next Up: Virginia hosts Loyola Maryland on Sunday, August 21. Gametime is 6:00pm and will be on the ACC Network.
August 20, 2022