On this season, Virginia has already defeated Liberty 6 – 1 and Liberty in turn has already defeated William and Mary 4 – 2. If you believe in the transitive property of common games, a comfortable win was forecast for Virginia against the visiting Tribe from W & M. How do you think that worked out?
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The big news for the Cavaliers hit at the beginning of the game with the lineup announcement that freshman star Diana Ordonez and keeper Laurel Ivory were not starting. Watching the game, I did see Ivory on the sideline, wearing warmups and cleats, so I have to presume this was not disciplinary action – it was just a coach choosing to allow his backup keeper some time against a chump team. Maybe Ordonez was there – it was just hard to see in scattered sideline shots and during postgame handshakes – but her complete absence looms large.
Perhaps, it is just gamesmanship heading into the weekend’s clash with #8 Penn State.
In any event, the Cavaliers pounced early as Becca Jarrett had a brace within the first 8 minutes. The first goal came off a lovely cross from new HoosPlace Fave, Taryn Torres, and the second off a muffed handle from the woeful Tribe keeper. Even though the game announcer was doing his level best to present William and Mary as a worthy foe, he did refer to the Tribe, as “The Generals” which only calls to mind the Washington Generals, the longtime patsies for the Harlem Globetrotters. It was worth a chuckle.
And then out of nowhere, Tribe right winger, Renee Kohler, gave William and Mary a reason to cheer with a superb effort in which she left Courtney Petersen flat on her back and Phoebe McClernon sprawling, drilling a long-range shot past back-up keeper Micheala Moran. To leave two premier ACC-caliber defenders in her dust, well, it was just remarkable and it’s the best solo effort that Klöckner Stadium has seen this year. Maybe, as the game announcer hoped, the game would become an even contest.
Remember the aforementioned 2 – 4 result versus Liberty? Well, this is not a strong William and Mary team. Their keeper dropped balls all night long and Spaanstra almost scored within a minute of Kohler’s moment of brilliance, again off a keeper muff. William and Mary did try to press up a bit and get out of their defensive shell, but their individual defending all night was shambolic. Which is a British euphemism for really, really bad. For the next goal, Spaanstra got the ball on the edge of the penalty box and she drove to the endline. It’s her signature move. And yet one W&M defender just backed away from her. It was simply bizarre, the kind of move you’d see in a game of 10 year olds. Spaanstra found a streaking Claire Constant who had a pretty open net for the tap in and what ever “balance’ there might have been was over. Over the next 75 minutes, Virginia would pour in five more goals and take over the goalscoring efficiency lead, pacing every team in the country with 4.71 goals per game.
Megan McCool (one), Ash Serepca (two), Sydney Zandi (one) and Torres (one, on a PK) would complete the scoring for the game.
In the second half, Coach Steve Swanson unloaded his bench. It was nice to see Makenna Angotti – little used last year, and presumably the third defensive option until the season-ending injury to Lizzie Sieracki – have her nicest game of her UVa career. She was a transfer last year, and I’ve long thought that the ACC moves too fast for her, but against this William and Mary team, she did find space and she looked assertive moving into offence. Given that she is going to see more meaningful time this year, I hope that the confidence from this game bleeds into the ACC slate.
There were two concerns that did strike me. The first has been a season-long struggle: the through ball behind the defensive line. As teams try to push up and crowd the middle with bodies, there will be more space behind the lines, and in Jarrett and Spaanstra, we have some speed to attack it. We just suck at the driven through ball, and until we can punish other teams for pressing higher on the pitch, we’re going to make the game more difficult for us. The answer: more Rondos drills, Coach Swanson!
My other concern is more of a quibble, really. Since Spaanstra’s wonder strike versus West Virginia, she has been more content (read that: willing to settle) for the long range shot. Yes, being able to strike from distance is important, but not at the expense of trying to build a better attack. It is a balancing act, true, but the past two games it seems Alexa’s erred on too many speculative shots when she is the one player we want moving with the ball at her feet.
Next Up: Penn State at State College. We’ve played our first seven games at home and we’ve got one of the most spacious fields in all of NCAA soccer. One reason I have long suspected for our struggles in the ACC tournament and NCAA tourney is that this team is built to take advantage of Klöckner’s roominess. When we play on smaller pitches, it becomes easier for opponents to clog the middle and slow us down. This Sunday’s game will be a great test of how we handle the challenge of a smaller field.
I’ll be previewing next week’s ACC slate with a mailbag. Forward any questions you’d like addressed to firstname.lastname@example.org