After a substandard effort against Notre Dame led to their first loss of the season, the Virginia Cavaliers returned to the friendly area at Klockner Stadium to try to get back on track. The opponent’s pick couldn’t have been better, as Virginia has never lost to the Cardinals. And, after a rare loss, UVA posted coach Steve Swanson’s 61-8-13 record soon after the loss. So these signs don’t bode well for Louisville.
The last three games have been fun for the ‘Hoos. A draw with VCU kicked off three games, and Virginia has struggled to maintain their usual dominance in midfield. The next game was a stunning comeback from a 2-0 second-half victory over Tar Heels. It was a great, great victory, to be sure, but don’t let that overshadow the fact that the woman was swept off the pitch in the first half. Midweek, UVA were beaten by the Notre Dame-fighting Irish, who trailed 1-0. Likewise, Virginia cannot control the midfield.
Against Louisville, Swanson made some changes. He rearranged Maggie Cagle back into the starting lineup. He’s been talking about who’s taking corners all season, and today, it’s Alexis Theoret. Cagle and Alexa Spaansta flip their wings. It’s not uncommon, but it’s rare that they switch sides after 10 minutes. At one point, Lenny Routh and Samar Guidry appeared to have similarly swapped sides, which would have been highly unusual, but it could have just been based on how they positioned themselves for corners.
Most notably, however, when the Cavaliers had the ball in half court, to make up for Rebecca Jarrett’s loss of speed on the wing, Swanson moved Theoret (usually right midfielder) back into the center of the defense and sent Lacy McCormack moves to the wing. This effectively pushes Lenny Laws into midfield. I don’t know if Rolls has actually gotten faster, but she’s learned how to use her speed more effectively on the flanks, and she’s been more efficient on offense this year.
It’s a major shift for a team that has been lined up in a nice vanilla 4-3-3 formation for at least the past 5-6 years. Unfortunately, the results were mixed. For the fourth straight game, Virginia struggled to control the midfield against a very average Louisville team. The team just wasn’t clean when they had the ball. Twice in the first 20 minutes of the game, the announcer noted, “The idea is there. The execution isn’t.” I had to agree with him.
The hallmark of the first half was a beautiful through ball from Maggie Cagle that put Louisville’s backline well ahead of Haley Hopkins. She sprinted at full speed, matching the pace of the Louisville defender, and her second touch of the ball was so heavy that it rolled over the goalie before Hopkins shot. It’s not two all-American encounters with women approaching 50 career goals. Here’s the feel of the bench and sums up the way the Cavaliers played in the first half. Apparently average.
It was cloudy at half-time and it started pouring rain within 15 minutes of the restart. It seems like a perfect analogy. Whatever Swanson tried to say to his team at halftime, it didn’t have the same effect as it did at North Carolina last weekend.
The game changed in the 73rd minute when Hopkins was brought down 10 yards outside the box. Just five minutes ago, Leah Godfrey was substituted, so Alexis Teoret came on. I think Theoret is a great dead ball striker and I hope she takes all the corners this season. Actually, I’m cheering for Godfrey’s backup in my heart, and Theoret will prove me right. She drilled a laser in the top left of the goal, denying Louisville goalkeeper Erin Floyd a chance.
By then, the game is basically over. Swanson brought back his starter and set the stage for the game. Talia Staude took the free kick 10 yards deeper than Theoret with 8 minutes left. She found Hopkins, as if the chaos had parted as hard as the Red Sea. Hopkins was isolated one-on-one with her defender and buried the ball behind the net with a majestic header. 8 againth Goals for the season and 50th or re-employment.
All the fighting for the Cardinals is over, and the Wahoos mostly stay away from the game to stop the game.
Next step: Virginia travels to Durham this Friday to face the Duke Blue Devils. Game time is 7:00 p.m. and the game will be broadcast on ACCN Extra.