The Hoyas came to Charlottesville presenting something akin to that old physics conundrum about the immovable force versus the unstoppable object. Georgetown has had a Top 10 defense each of the past three years while UVa has scored more goals than anyone else over the past nine years. Becca Jarrett simply gutted this proposition, assisting on both goals and having the game Virginia fans have been longing for.
I’ve written a couple of times in this place that Jarrett has been the weak link on the forward line for a Virginia team that presses instantly, and deep, when the Cavaliers lose the ball. Possessing great speed, she’s usually been content to just deploy it when we have the ball, and regardless of her speed, she also, consistently, been too far off the ball to effectively defend.
Last Sunday against West Virginia I noticed that her off-ball positioning was better and that when the ball was on her side, she was more engaged as a defender. It was good to see. For this game, she was doubly committed, tracking well back into our defensive third (on at least 3 occasions) and challenging every Hoya on the right side. Every time they had the ball. If we can add Jarrett’s pace to Meg McCool’s and Taryn Torres’ work rates, we’ll continue to force lots of turnovers in the defensive end. We’re going to be racking up even more goals.
UVa is currently the second highest scoring team in the country, and the only team ahead of the Cavaliers is Louisiana Tech, who has beat up on six teams with a combined 7 – 16 – 2 record and put 15(!) goals past Alcorn State.
I’ve also been critical of Jarrett’s play as a winger, and it’s time for me to eat crow: while her dribbling skills are not great, she has been crossing the ball better, especially the past three games. Our first goal, which we hope is soon to become vintage Jarrett, was wonderfully simple: she started on the wing, blew right by her defender and made an easy pass to Diana Ordonez who scored her ninth goal of the season. Now, Ordonez was wide open, and Georgetown would only make that mistake once, but once was enough.
Georgetown is a fine team, with much recent success and a lot of pride: they didn’t lose a single game last season until the Final 4 and they only gave up 10 goals all season. Georgetown didn’t fold up and go away. They played as hard as they could, but they were always on the back foot. The Hoyas started out in a nominal 3 – 5 – 2 but Jarrett and McCool (who I also don’t think of as much of a winger) kept the wingbacks pretty much bottled up all game long and while the announcers were desperately trying to make it seem like Georgetown was close to equalizing, they weren’t. They just weren’t. Yeah, they did win three corners in the second half – and one did bounce crazily inside the six-yard box – and they did attempt three shots in the half, but on their two best through balls, Claire Constant and Phoebe McClernon snuffed them out pretty easily.
Late in the second half, two consecutive Georgetown free kicks, from just about the same spot a minute apart, landed at the feet of Jarrett and she almost sprung the one-man counter twice, tantalizing all watching Wahoos with her speed. With 5 minutes left in the game, the third time was the charm with Jarrett breaking out and streaking 85 - 90 yards to the top of the Georgetown penalty box. Jarrett’s momentum stalled, the ball stayed on her feet, and just as it appeared she was going to lose the ball, she fed an onrushing McCool, who made as deft a turn as you’ll see in the women’s game, and coolly fired past the Hoya keeper.
Game over and the Cavaliers advance to 5 – 0.
Our pressure, especially in the first 10 – 15 minutes of the second half, was unrelenting and if it weren’t for that crazily bouncing corner, I would have awarded the team a Cavalanche because this game wasn’t as close as the score indicated. Maybe the women will get a chance to win one on Sunday, when they welcome a Minnesota team that received serious consideration for a Top 25 pre-season ranking, but who have crashed out of the starting gate, going winless in their first five matches. But the weather forecast is for warm, sunny skies and I will back to Klockner for the second time in a week. We should be able to run Minnesota ragged.
The Perils of Punditry (The Not-Me Version): I know that it can be a challenge to find things to talk about during a 90-minute soccer game, but announcer Angela Hucles, a UVa legend for those who don’t know, reached new heights of inanity when she said: “I think goalkeeper is one of the most mental positions on the field.”
Injury news: McClernon has traded in her heavy plaster-of-paris cast for a much more streamlined one. It’s not as nice the one Kihei Clark wore last year as the ACC slate began, but it is smaller, and being freed from the worry about clonking an opponent has to enable Pheobe to be just that much more physical.
I am to declare, if Coach Steve Swanson hasn’t already done so, that Sydney Zandi is match fit and is ready for starting duty. I don’t think she’s going to reenter the starting lineup because Anna Sumpter is playing so well, but on a team that has less depth than last year, Zandi’s return is great news.
Val can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org