By Jeff White (email@example.com)
CHARLOTTESVILLE — A happy ending eluded UVa on an entertaining evening of soccer at Klöckner Stadium.
The occasion was a doubleheader that featured four nationally ranked teams. In the opening game, the sixth-ranked Virginia women gave up an early goal to No. 7 Penn State but dominated thereafter in a 5-1 victory before 2,609 fans on a warm summer night.
“The atmosphere was awesome,” said the Cavaliers’ All-American midfielder, Morgan Brian.
Many of those fans stayed for the second game, and others arrived to join them in the grass and in the stands at Klöckner. The nightcap matched the 20th-ranked UVa men against No. 10 Louisville in the season-opener for both teams, and it drew a crowd of 4,016.
“It was great to have all these fans out here for the first game,” said sophomore Scott Thomsen, one of the Wahoos’ starting defenders. “They really pushed us, especially in the second half when we were down.”
Like the Virginia women, the men fell behind in the first half and then battled back to tie the game. But the Cavaliers surrendered a second goal in the 63rd minute and, despite producing several excellent chances in the final minutes, never got the equalizer.
Louisville walked away with a 2-1 victory that left the `Hoos — and most of the crowd at Klöckner — ruing their missed opportunities.
The Cardinals “had two good chances in the game, over the course of the game, and scored on both of them,” UVa coach George Gelnovatch said. “I felt like we had three really good chances in the second half. If one of those goes in, you tie the game, and maybe you win the game.”
With two starters sidelined Friday night — forward Darius Madison and back Jordan Poarch — Gelnovatch started one senior, two juniors, six sophomores and two freshmen against Louisville, which will begin play in the ACC next year.
The most heralded of those freshmen is forward Jordan Allen, who nearly put Virginia up 2-1 early in the second half, but his shot, off a well-placed cross from sophomore forward Marcus Salandy-Defour, sailed over the crossbar.
Louisville scored in the 63rd minute to make it 2-1. In the 73rd minute, Salandy-Defour slipped behind the defense and had only the goalie to beat, but Joachim Ball batted the shot away.
“One of those has got to go in, in a game like this,” Gelnovatch said.
Thomsen scored on a magnificent free kick from 20 yards out to pull UVa to 1-1 in the 33rd minute. He had eight assists last year, when the Cavaliers advanced to the NCAA tournament’s second round, but the goal was the first of Thomsen’s college career.
“I liked in particular the way we took the game over when they scored,” Gelnovatch said. “For a young team, that’s a very good response. Not only took the game over, but should have scored.
“To me, that was probably the best part of this game, the response to both goals. They scored one, and we scored one. They scored one, and we should have scored one.”
The UVa women scored seemingly at will for the third straight game. In last weekend’s season-opening Klöckner Classic, Virginia defeated VCU 4-2 and then-No. 9 Santa Clara 4-0.
“Our offense, we’ve been working together really well,” sophomore forward Makenzy Doniak said, “and I think when a lot of people get goals, it just shows the chemistry we have with each other, and anyone can take the ball and put it in the back of the net.”
Against Penn State (1-1-1), five players had a goal apiece for Virginia: first Brian, then Doniak, then senior midfielder Kate Norbo, then senior defender Shasta Fisher and, finally, sophomore forward Brittany Ratcliffe.
“We got good contributions from a lot of people tonight, which we needed,” UVa coach Steve Swanson said. “That’s a good Penn State team. They’re going to beat a lot of teams.”
A defensive breakdown led to the Nittany Lions’ goal in the seventh minute, but nobody on the home team panicked.
“That doesn’t really mean much to us, especially when we have the team that we do,” Brian said. “We can bounce back and score a lot of goals from that, so we weren’t too worried about it.”
Swanson said: “We just got caught with a mistake. What I was happy about was the response to that and how we came back from that. I thought we solved the problems that we needed to and we created chances and we finished, and we took control of the game again, which was good. We’re still an evolving team, but we’re capable of creating chances against a lot of opponents.”
Both UVa teams will be back at Klöckner soon. The men meet St. John’s there Monday at 7 p.m. The women host Richmond at 5 p.m. Sunday, and Swanson is hoping for another strong turnout from fans.
“It was fantastic tonight,” he said Friday. “I’ve been in a lot of soccer communities, but this is as good as it gets. The fans here have been fantastic, and I think they’ve taken to the team. It’s such a positive atmosphere here, and it’s such a motivating one for our players.”