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Bouncing Back Convincingly

Posted on October 8, 2018, in Soccer(W) by Valentine.

Notre Dame is a well-respected women’s soccer program. They own a pair of NCAA championships this century – in 2004 and 2011. The program has never recorded a losing season in it’s 30-year existence. But after getting torched for three goals against Virginia, Notre Dame drops to 6 – 8 and is in danger of losing this streak.

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Virginia is back!

Three days after looking rather tepid in a 1 – 0 win at Louisville, the Cavaliers ran rampant over a surprisingly weak Notre Dame squad. The game was almost over before it started. We scored our first goal in the 18th minute on a nifty designed play off a free kick 30 yards from the goal. Three players stood over the ball, Brianna Westrup ran over the ball, the Notre Dame wall sagged a bit, and Montana Sutton slipped a pass to Sydney Zandi who had timed her run behind the Notre Dame wall with Westrup’s decoy, and Zandi slotted the ball home, almost effortlessly. Early goals are like 1st inning runs – they put the opposing team into chase mode. And on our day, we can make just about anybody run. And run. And run.

Soccer is played on a larger field than a football field, but like basketball (which is on a smaller court), the teams are on one side with rather restrictive coaches boxes. It is nigh impossible for a coach to do much coaching during the game, and there are no timeouts. Halftime, then, is even more important to a soccer coach for getting his players to regroup. And maybe Notre Dame came out fired up after halftime, ready to take the game to us, but Montana Sutton scored 50 seconds in, the score was 2 – 0, and the game was over. Alexa Spaanstra scored to make the game 3 – 0 (off a Montana Sutton assist, no less) and it was time for Coach Swanson to empty his bench.

We could have scored twice more. Rebecca Jarrett had a one-man counter, showing all the pace that’s been her trademark, but as she neared the Irish penalty box, and the last two defenders, she missed fellow 1st year striker Ashlynn Serepca who was open on her left. And when Megan McCool and Alissa Gorzak forced the Irish keeper to play to ball when she was out of goal, Betsy Brandon intercepted the ball with an open net. She was, however, 40 yards out and she opted to pass the ball into the net, which is what I would have done, but that gave the defense time to make the save. Had she’d just struck the ball even one half as well as she did vs Wake, she’d have celebrated her 5th goal of the season.

On defense, Notre Dame’s most dangerous player, Jennifer Westendorf, occupied most of our attention.  Westendorf has been a second team All ACC player her first two years, and she's scored over 20 career goals. She’s got a cannon for a left foot – she unleashed one rocket from 30 yards that was maybe only a foot over the goal, but Zoe Morse and Phoebe McClernon blanketed her all game. I don’t know if she even got 20 touches of the ball. Keeper Laurel Ivory didn’t have to make a single save on the day.

Coach Swanson is still tinkering with the lineup: for only the second time this season, Alissa Gorzak got a start.  Gorzak was 3rd team All ACC her first year, was injured most of last year and could be an important part of our second unit. She’s had trouble getting consistent minutes, but today she got starter’s minutes and played well. I hope this gives her some confidence, because she and Anna Sumpter are two of our more direct players and provide a nice change-of-pace off the bench.

The casualty of this lineup tweaking is 4th year midfielder (and Lawn resident) Betsy Brandon. Coming in as a sub is something Brandon is not used to as she's started just about every game of her UVa career. As Jarrett, and today Gorzak, has stepped into the winger’s spot, Tarryn Torres has dropped back into Brandon’s midfield spot. Although she filled up the score sheet today, I have thought for the past couple of games that Montana Sutton has missed Brandon and she’s suffered a dip in form. But with a goal and a pair of assists today, I’m sure Sutton could care less what an internet blogger has to say.

The other player squeezed out these past three games is 1st year defensive midfielder Claire Constant. Through 10 games she had averaged 40 minutes a game, but in the last two games, she’s played a total of 3 minutes. Apparently she is not playing with a knock; I just hope she's not somehow in Steve Swanson’s doghouse. She’s been solid, (Constant is a great name for a defender), and we lose two defenders and a pair of midfielders next year. Constant has to continue to develop.

All in all: a stress-free win. These are good.

Next:  Virginia returns home for the last four games of the regular season, and we’ve got the bottom feeders:  Pitt (on Thursday) and Syracuse – both winless in ACC play – and then a Florida State team that began the season #2 in the preseason polls (but has lost 3 ACC games already) and NC State. We should be looking to run the table here.  It doesn’t look like we’re going to catch UNC (6 – 0 in the ACC) or Boston College (5 – 1), nor are we going to play either of them. Asymmetrical scheduling sucks.

But that’s OK. They will be waiting for us in the ACC tournament.

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Women Soccer
On October 15, 2018, HOOS Place presents "The Bounce Back", the 2018-19 Virginia Basketball Season Preview, featuring player scouting reports, ACC team reports, features and more! Click for more info.