Dec. 7, 2014

By Jeff White (

BOCA RATON, Fla. — Their tears had dried, but the raw emotions of a season-ending loss remained etched on the faces of UVa women’s soccer players Morgan Brian, Danielle Colaprico and Makenzy Doniak.

The moment was difficult, too, for head coach Steve Swanson, who joined Brian, Colaprico and Doniak at the Cavaliers’ postgame press conference Sunday afternoon.

In its first appearance in the NCAA championship game, Virginia lost 1-0 to ACC rival Florida State, which scored in the 83rd minute at FAU Stadium.

“It was a tough game for us,” Swanson said. “Not a lot separating the teams.”

Of the teams Virginia faced this season, it failed to defeat only one. Unfortunately for the Wahoos, that team was their opponent in the College Cup final.

UVa, the highest-scoring team in Division I, finished the season with a 23-3 record. All three losses were to FSU (24-1-1), each by the same score.

The Cavaliers are “as well-coached as any team in the country, and they’re loaded with talent,” Florida State coach Mark Krikorian said. “You put that formula together and you have a great team … They’re very organized and very difficult to break down. We knew coming into the game that it would probably be a one-goal game.”

The NCAA title was the first for FSU, which was runner-up to UCLA last year. The Seminoles did not allow a goal in this NCAA tournament.

“I think you have to give them credit,” Swanson said. “We couldn’t get a goal against them in three times. I think that says it all right there.”

The `Noles are “very committed to [defense], from front to back,” Swanson said. “Even their forwards are good defenders. I think they press a lot more than they did maybe in previous years, and they do that quite well.”

In the first two games between these teams, Florida State struck early. The `Noles scored in the ninth minute Sept. 28 in Tallahassee, Fla., and in the 17th minute of the ACC championship game Nov. 9 in Greensboro, N.C.

For the third meeting, Swanson switched from a 4-4-2 to a 4-5-1 formation, with Doniak, one of the most profilic scorers in UVa history, as the lone forward.

“It’s been hard to build against [FSU],” Swanson said, “and so you have the choice of either playing really direct, which has not been our style, or you can put an extra player back [in the midfield] and see if you can build and work your way up the field and get a rhythm, get a tempo, which is the way we like to play.

“It was a conscious effort on our part. We hadn’t moved the ball very well against them in the first two games, because they press very well, and we wanted to build a little bit more and try to keep the ball a little bit and force it inside and keep it away from the sidelines, where they could get throw-ins in our box and set pieces and things like that.

“It was tough today for Mak. There’s no question about it. We knew it would be tough for her. And as the second half went on, I think it was tough to get some support around her. We didn’t execute as well as we wanted to in certain times of the game.”

Even so, Brian noted, “when [the Seminoles] don’t score for 80-some minutes and you’re going into the last 10 minutes of the game, it’s really anybody’s game.”

The game turned on a brilliant play by Jamia Fields. The FSU senior took a pass from teammate Cheyna Williams and dribbled left, eluding Virginia midfielder Kaili Torres, and then fired a low, left-footed shot that beat goalie Morgan Stearns and found its target inside near post.

“It was a great shot for them,” Brian said.

That was the second — and final — shot on goal for the Seminoles. The first came about a minute earlier, and Stearns made a diving save to preserve the shutout.

Virginia, which was ousted in the College Cup semifinals last year by eventual NCAA champion UCLA, had no shots on goal Sunday. Still, the `Hoos totaled seven shots, to eight for the `Noles, and had six corner kicks.

“We had good looks,” said Doniak, who led Virginia in scoring this season with 51 points. “It’s just about finishing the opportunities you get. We weren’t able to do that today.”

In the 88th minute, Morgan Reuther blasted a shot from outside the box and barely missed the goal. In the 89th, Veronica Latsko’s header sailed over the crossbar.

“We had seven shots to their eight, and I think that’s a pretty close game,” Brian said. “Like Makenzy said, it’s about who finishes them on the day.”

Swanson said: “We had some good looks. They had some looks. They happened to finish the one. It was a great finish by Jamia.”

So it goes in soccer sometimes.

“I’m really proud of my team,” Swanson said. “They’re just the greatest group to work with. They just play such good soccer. There’s never been a day that I’ve come in and said, `Oh, I gotta go to work today.’ It’s never been work. It’s always been play.”

Four Cavaliers made the All-College Cup team: Doniak, Colaprico, Brian and defender Emily Sonnett, who also was named the Final Four’s most outstanding player on defense.

Doniak and Sonnett are juniors. Colaprico and Brian are All-America midfielders who, along with Campbell Millar and Mary Morgan, make up the Cavaliers’ senior class.

“Four years goes by very fast,” said Swanson, whose record in 15 years seasons at UVa is 235-75-35.

“It happens very quickly. I can’t believe, actually, Morgan and Danielle and Campbell and Mary are leaving. But this is just part of the process. We lose great players and great people every year. I think these two to my left” — Brian and Colaprico — “are two of the best that have ever played at Virginia.”

Colaprico, the ACC midfielder of the year, made the All-America third team as a junior and the second team this fall. Brian, also a member of the U.S. national team, is the first Cavalier to be named a first-team All-American three times in women’s soccer.

“They’ve had great careers,” Swanson said of his seniors. “There’s a lot of sadness now, but there’s a lot of pride for all they’ve accomplished and what they’ve done and how they’ve conducted themselves. A lot of times you say it’s not what you do, what championships you win, it’s how you conduct yourself, and I couldn’t be more proud of these guys.”

Effort was never a question with this team.

“I thought we played very hard today,” Swanson said. “I’m very proud of our team. We put ourselves in a position to win, and we also put ourselves in a position to come back and get back even here at the end. But we just didn’t have enough.”

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