Nov. 24, 2014
CHARLOTTESVILLE — When the game ended Sunday night at Klöckner Stadium, there was still a chance the UVa women’s soccer team might play there again this season.
In Los Angeles, the third-round match between Pepperdine and defending NCAA champion UCLA was scoreless at the half, and the Cavaliers could allow themselves to dream. Had UCLA lost, Virginia would have hosted Pepperdine in an NCAA quarterfinal at Klöckner.
Alas for the Wahoos, the Bruins scored in the 88th minute to win 1-0. And that means UVa, a No. 2 seed in the 64-team tournament, must fly across the country this week to face UCLA, the No. 1 overall seed, at 8 p.m. (ET) Friday in Los Angeles.
It also means Morgan Brian, Virginia’s peerless senior midfielder, will not play at Klöckner again as a collegian. Brian, also a member of the United States national team, knew that was a possibility when she took the field Sunday, and she created more magic in her final appearance.
“It’s awesome being on Klöckner,” Brian said. “It’s such a great pitch, and it’s just fun being out there on the field.”
On a rainy evening, Brian contributed two goals and two assists in a 7-0 rout of Kentucky that moved UVa (21-2) to the quarterfinals for the third time in four seasons. The victory was the 32nd straight at Klöckner for Virginia.
“We made it very clear: Don’t let Morgan Brian get the ball in the box,” Kentucky coach Jon Lipsitz said. “She scores the first two goals, and at that point I know we’re in a little bit of trouble. Again, that’s what great players do. They find their moments, no matter who’s trying to stop them.”
The Wildcats (16-7-1) could not stop Brian’s teammates, either. Junior forward Makenzy Doniak totaled three goals and two assists to set a school record for points (eight) in a game.
Doniak’s latest tour de force gives her 48 points for the year, breaking the UVa single-season record of 47 set by forward Caroline Miller in 2012. Other standouts for the `Hoos included senior Danielle Colaprico, the ACC midfielder of the year, who assisted on Doniak’s final goal, which made it 7-0 in the 55th minute.
Colaprico’s 43 career assists are the most in program history, and her 18 assists this season are another UVa record.
“Great credit to Morgan and Danielle for really running the show tonight and just putting on a great exhibition of soccer, and we truly respect that,” said Lipsitz, whose team trailed 3-0 at intermission.
“We’ve had bad halves before, and nobody punished us like this. We had a half where we weren’t us or we didn’t play well, and we got punished for it. That’s the mark of a great team. They found that weakness and they went after us.”
Many opponents, Virginia coach Steve Swanson noted after the match, “would have come in here and dropped back and really put a lot of numbers behind the ball, but I think [the Wildcats] deserve a lot of credit for coming out and playing.
“I give them a lot of credit for going for it, and I give our players a lot of credit for dealing with the game and at times playing some really good soccer. It was a good performance by a lot of players for us.”
Such performances have been the norm for Virginia in this NCAA tournament. In its first three games, all at Klöckner, UVa outscored its opponents 18-0. Not since 2003, when North Carolina blanked Purdue 7-0, had a round-of-16 game in the NCAA tourney been so one-sided.
The Cavaliers were not expecting such a result Sunday night, Doniak said, but “were definitely ready for this game. Our mentality was, we wanted to go out there and play our best, and we did that. I think it was some of the best soccer we’ve played so far.”
Swanson said: “I think our confidence has grown as the season’s grown. I don’t think by any means we feel like we have less work to do or we don’t think we can get better. That’s not in this team’s DNA.
“I think we try to come out and play hard and play well and play together and play our style and impose our style. I think today we did that for the most part.”
Both of Virginia’s losses were to Florida State, the ACC’s other representative in the NCAA tournament’s round of eight.
“We’ve been tested,” Swanson said. “We’ve had moments throughout the season where we’ve struggled, and we’ve learned from that, and we’ve had other moments where we’ve done well.”
Doniak collected the assists on Brian’s first two goals, and their on-field chemistry is among the reasons Virginia is again contending for a spot in the College Cup.
“Morgan’s unique in that the more you play with her, the more you realize that she’s always looking to play forward,” Swanson said. “So even though she might be facing east or west, she’s still looking to play north.
“I think Mak’s kind of latched onto that. I think Mak can read that a little bit, and those guys work really well together.
“Morgan’s dangerous in that regard, and she’s also dangerous once she plays that ball in. If you get caught watching, she’s off and moving again, and she’s looking for the ball back. I think that linking ability in our team has been good.”
With her two goals Sunday, the 5-foot-7 Brian became the 45th player in Division I women’s soccer history to total at least 40 goals and 40 assists in her career. She’s done that despite missing eight games — one in 2013 and seven this season — to train and play with the national team.
“I think she’s given this community a real look — and I think hopefully she’s given the game a real look — at the way you can play,” Swanson said, “and how when you have skills like she does and you can make decisions on the field, that you don’t have to be the biggest player on the field. That you don’t have to be the strongest player on the field. That you can make an impact, and you can do it playing within a team concept.
“It’s been so much fun to have her. I think it’s been great for the community. I think the community’s really been superb with her, and I think they realize what they have here.
“But I would say that about Danielle as well. I feel a little bit for her, because any other time, any other era, Danielle Colaprico, we would be saying the same things about Danny. I think to have them both together, it’s been a privilege to coach them, and I think it’s unique for the community.”
As Cavaliers, Brian and Colaprico have no more games at Klöckner Stadium, but they have plenty to play for. Virginia is seeking its first NCAA title in this sport.
In 2013, as the tournament’s No. 1 overall seed, UVa was ousted on penalty kicks by UCLA in the NCAA semifinals. Now comes the rematch.
“We’re under no illusions,” Swanson said. “We’re going to have to play well to win games now, and we know that. There’s only eight teams left.”