At the 60 minute mark of Virginia's game with Liberty, I wrote in my notebook that the player of the game was Liberty's Mikayla Green. Even though we were winning 1-0, that should give you an idea of how the game was going.
But thanks to a goalpost assist (it blocked the linesman's view) Alexa Spaanstra was ruled inbounds and she made the perfect pass to make the game 2 - 0. The floodgates were opened and Virginia won 6 - 0.
Liberty was outmatched from the get-go, but full credit to Liberty head coach, Lang Wedemeyer, who scheduled both Virginia and Virginia Tech, as well as Clemson in an exhibition game, for insisting on a brutal OOC slate to prepare his team for the season. He had to have been as pleased with his team’s performance in the first half as Coach Swanson was disappointed with Virginia’s.
Liberty came out in a very defensive posture, but it was not quite the typical park-the-bus routine. Liberty had two lines of five defenders and the back line was relatively high up the pitch, sometimes no more than 5-7 yards behind the midfield line. It was very effective at clogging the middle and denied Virginia any space to play between the lines, which for a methodical, ball-controlled team like UVa, is the preferred way to attack a defensive posture.
The way to attack this team would be with through balls behind the defensive line because there was more space between the goalkeeper and the defense than normal. And Virginia tried. Oh, did they try. But we were really bad on the day. Really bad. I could make a very depressing lowlight video or 30, 35 through balls that the defense cut out.
The breakthrough came, as it did versus UC Irvine, with Alexa Spaanstra driving the ball at the defense, this time down the wing, getting behind the line and feeding a perfect pass to Diana Ordonez, who finished with aplomb. Both would be heard again. And again.
But Liberty didn’t panic, and for the next 50-55 minutes, Mickayla Green, deputizing for standout Liberty defender, Cora Duininck, looked like the best player on the pitch. But that all changed in the 66th minute when Spaanstra, again dribbling straight at the right side of the Liberty defense, clattered into a defender, and got to the ball just as it appeared to go over the end line. The linesman on that half of the pitch was blocked from seeing this by keeper, defenders, and most importantly the goal posts, so Spaanstra’s cross to Ordonez, which she finished easily, was not ruled out-of-bounds. Sometimes you get lucky….
The wheels fell off the Liberty bus at that point because four minutes later, Spaanstra again got to the end line and served the ball on a platter, this time for Ashlynn Serepca. Three minutes after that, Spaanstra delivered a corner to the near post where Megan McCool scored as pretty a goal as you’ll see in the women’s game, flicking the ball from in front of her into the goal behind her. Degree of difficulty: 9.2.
If you’re keeping score, that was Spaanstra’s fourth assist on the day.
It was then the turn for another freshman to make her mark. Forward Cam Lexow was fouled in the box, the penalty was promptly called, and she moved forward immediately to set the ball at the penalty spot. She struck the ball calmly, perfectly on the ground to her left as the keeper went right. Swanson must not follow Arsene Wenger’s dictum that the fouled party does not take penalties, but Lexow rewarded him and got herself into the records book. And she became the seventh Cavalier to score on the season.
With time winding down, Ordonez wanted secure her claim to player of the match, and scored her third goal on the day with a fine effort as she was falling down. We may have a star in the making and I’m eager to see how Ordonez stacks up to stiffer competition. But for now, she’s had a dream start at Mr Jefferson’s university with four goals in two games.
Liberty did muster a shot in the closing minutes, which to me was the gift of a generous scorekeeper, but it did mar the perfect record of UVa’s defense through the first two exhibition and first two games: zero shots allowed.
I apologize in advance for the small view of the highlights.
The effort today gave Steve Swanson his 300th win at UVa. Last year he became the 11th coach to have 400 wins, so here’s hoping he’s still here to notch his 450th win and his 350th UVa victory.
Other than the win, it was nice seeing nominal starter Sydney Zandi back on the pitch. Injury information is notoriously hard to come by, but she came back sooner than expected and she had several strong runs. I say nominal starter because Sumpter filled in for her last year, but Anna has jumped on the opportunity this year and Zandi may have to re-win her starting spot.
Ordonez is a star in the making, and her muscling into the starting lineup from the get-go is a problem all coaches love to have. But with Swanson moving McCool out to left wing when Ordonez is in the game, effectively has us playing with three center forwards. McCool is willing runner and Jarrett’s got the jets, but neither is a winger. Spaanstra delivered the kind of crosses required by a winger in the 4-3-3, and we’ll have to see how effective she is in doing that against ACC-caliber competition.
But for now, let’s enjoy the rout and Coach Steve Swanson’s 300th Virginia win!