By Jeff White (email@example.com)
CHARLOTTESVILLE — The scene at Klöckner Stadium on Thursday night was an increasingly familiar one: a large, raucous crowd cheering on the nation’s top-ranked team.
This was not a picturesque fall afternoon, though, as was the case Sept. 29, when 2,540 fans — then a record for a women’s soccer game at Klöckner — watched Virginia edge ACC rival Maryland 1-0.
Rain fell throughout the day in Charlottesville on Thursday, and conditions grew worse after the 7 p.m. game between No. 1 UVa and No. 5 Notre Dame began.
None of that deterred the Cavaliers, or the crowd that came out in nasty weather to cheer them on.
“It’s great to see the support that the community is giving us,” junior midfielder Morgan Brian said after the Wahoos edged the Fighting Irish 3-2 in double overtime before a record crowd of 2,838.
UVa fans have come to expect magical moments from Brian, who has earned two caps for the U.S. national team, and she didn’t disappoint Thursday night.
In the 101st minute, junior midfielder Danielle Colaprico, who already had an assist, sent a corner kick toward the top of the 6-yard box, and Brian did the rest. Her header crossed the goal line — if only barely — before a Notre Dame defender cleared the ball, and the assistant referee raised his flag.
Goal, Virginia. Game over.
The Fighting Irish (9-3-1, 5-2-1) protested the call, and their head coach, Randy Waldrum, was in a foul mood when he met with reporters after the game.
“It wasn’t a goal,” Waldrum said. “The two teams deserved much more than for the game to end this way.”
The Cavaliers, not surprisingly, saw it differently.
“I actually physically watched it go over the line,” Colaprico said.
UVa coach Steve Swanson, some 50 yards away, didn’t have a great view, but when “I watched the play, my focus went right to the A.R. on that side, and he immediately put his flag up, and that was that,” he said. “That’s his job. He had the best angle on it. That’s what they’re there for. It wasn’t like he was uncertain or anything like that.
“On the other side, you hate to lose games like that, but certainly our players pushed really hard. I thought we really got aggressive in both overtimes, so that was good to see, and it was good to see us get a goal on a set piece like that, too.”
Virginia’s victory came in the first ACC game between these schools in any sport. The `Hoos (13-0, 7-0), the nation’s only unbeaten and untied team, never trailed Thursday night. They went up 1-0 in the fourth minute, when senior forward Gloria Douglas headed in a perfect cross from Colaprico, and 2-1 in the 50th minute, on an own goal by Notre Dame.
On this play, UVa senior Molly Menchel sent a cross into the box, and Brian, in front of the goal, leaped for the header. So did Notre Dame defender Rebecca Twining, and the ball went off her head and past goalie Kaela Little.
Asked later if she had touched the ball, Brian smiled. “No, I did not,” she said. “I celebrated like I did, but that was not me.”
The Irish fought back each time they fell behind, as would be expected of a program that has won three NCAA titles (1995, 2004 and 2010).
“Full marks to Notre Dame,” Swanson said. “I thought they played a great game. I think to go down in this environment and to come back and get themselves even there was good, but I thought our players played with great resolve as well.
“It was a great college game. Usually when you have two good teams, there’s going to be ebbs and flows in the game, and there certainly was tonight. I thought we put our most consistent minutes together over the course of the game, so that was good to see against a very good opponent.”
Brian is known for keeping an even keel on the field, but after she scored the game-winner, she sprinted about 50 yards before sliding to her knees, a look of pure joy on her face.
“Any overtime game that you play is pretty intense like that, especially against an opponent like Notre Dame,” Brian said. “We were in the huddle [before the second OT] and Steve said, `If we win this thing, come celebrate with this crowd over here.’ What had happened was, the ref put his flag up and I just saw it and I did what Steve said and ran over there.”
The goal was Brian’s ninth of the season. Only sophomore Makenzy Doniak (10) has more for the `Hoos. Brian leads the team with eight assists.
“She’s the energizer out there,” Swanson said. “She works very hard. I think we needed her to do that tonight. I thought she played superbly tonight.”
Swanson praised the crowd, too. Had Mother Nature cooperated Thursday, the Cavaliers would have drawn more than 3,000 fans at home for the first time, and perhaps more than 4,000. Those who braved the conditions at Klöckner made a difference.
“It was obviously a little bit tough that the weather came and stayed the whole day, but I can’t say enough about the crowd,” Swanson said. “They were awesome. I thought they were into the game, and they energized us for sure in the overtimes.
“I think they’re starting to get a good feeling with the team, good bond with the team, which is always good as well. You can kind of sense that.”
Virginia’s next home game is Oct. 24 against ACC rival Miami. First, though, UVa will play at No. 11 Wake Forest (Sunday), NC State (Oct. 17) and No. 6 North Carolina (Oct. 20).