Women's soccer rebounds, routs Saint Francis 5-0
Cavaliers roll to NCAA Tournament's second round with sublime performance Friday
After tallying its first loss of the season one week ago to in-state rival Virginia Tech, the top-seeded Virginia women’s soccer team got back to its winning ways Friday, trouncing Saint Francis (Pa.) in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, 5-0.
Virginia (21-1, 13-0 ACC) asserted its dominance early in the match and never gave the Northeast Conference champions a chance. Before the first half was at its midpoint, the Cavaliers had already recorded 13 shots — two of which resulted in goals. Sophomore forward and leading scorer Makenzy Doniak tallied two goals in a two-minute span to break the game open for Virginia.
Doniak’s first goal came in the 19th minute when she finished a beautiful feed from senior midfielder Kate Norbo from deep inside the Saint Francis box. The Cavaliers immediately regained possession after the strike and launched another flurry of shots at Red Flash freshman goalkeeper Abbey Collins. Though she was able to briefly hold Virginia at bay, she was merely delaying the inevitable. When Collins attempted a soft clear out of the box, Doniak easily intercepted it and put the shot away for her 17th goal of the season.
“We saw that they try, at times, to play the ball out of the back with their goalkeeper,” coach Steve Swanson said. “So we were aware of that, so [Doniak] did a great job of jumping all over that one,”
Saint Francis (13-8-1, 7-1-0 NEC) was unable to halt Virginia’s momentum, which continued to build throughout the half. The Cavaliers put on a passing clinic and made a usually tough Red Flash defense look porous. Saint Francis gave up an average of just 1.24 goals per game prior to Friday’s matchup, but Virginia nearly tripled that number by the 31st minute after junior midfielder Morgan Brian added the team’s third goal of the half.
“Our chemistry is the biggest thing that sets us apart from other teams,” Doniak said. “We connect defense to midfield to the forwards, and I think that shows. We trust each other on and off of the field and that has made a difference this year.”
Although the offense — which registered 20 shots on goal in the game’s first 45 minutes — stood out in the first period, the team’s defensive play was also impressive. Virginia allowed just one shot in the period as Saint Francis was rarely able to generate offensive chances.
The Cavalier defense — seniors Shasta Fisher, Annie Steinlage and Morgan Stith and sophomore Emily Sonnett — successfully kept Red Flash standout senior forward Tesa McKibben, the NCAA’s active leader in career points, in check. McKibben is the only player in NCAA history to win four consecutive conference player of the year awards, but she was held to just one shot on goal in her final collegiate game.
The second half was virtually identical to the first. The Cavaliers increased their overall shot count from 20 to 30 less than 15 minutes into the second period and played as they pleased deep in the attacking third. Saint Francis dropped all of its players back in an effort to clog the middle and limit chances. Virginia countered by consistently throwing long crosses into the box from the flanks — a strategy which became increasingly more effective as the game wore on.
“Our ball movement was very good,” Swanson said. “Sometimes when teams drop back that far, you stop playing as fast as you could and should, and we didn’t do that. We found the space, which was on the flanks at that point, and we got some good goals off of crosses.”
The tactic finally paid dividends in the 63rd minute, when junior midfielder Danielle Colaprico’s cross from the far side of the field found Doniak charging into the box. The sophomore headed home her 18th goal of the season to complete a hat trick. Virginia was not done, however, and 20 minutes later sophomore forward Brittany Ratcliffe headed in another cross from senior defender Molly Menchel to push the lead to five.
“My hat trick really speaks to how well we played as a team tonight,” Doniak said. “I give all of the credit to my teammates because we worked really hard as a team.”
The Cavaliers will hope to repeat Friday’s 37-shot performance when they take on Georgetown at Klöckner Stadium Nov. 22 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament at 7 p.m.