After a dark and rainy day in Charlottesville the UVA Men’s Soccer team looked to give the Wahoo fans a glimmer of light in their 7 P.M. matchup against the #4 ranked UNC Tarheels. Unfortunately the Hoos were unable to beat their tough competition, but many on the team were inspired by the performance despite the large margin of victory.
UVA started the game attacking and within the first minute junior forward Will Bates got a shot on goal and just a few minutes later aggressive offense by sophomore Brian Span led to a UVA corner kick. The Cavs came up empty but got UNC on their “Heels”. The game went back and forth with both sides coming up with a few unsuccessful attacks.
In the 19th minute the complexion of the game changed as Midfielder Eric Bird went down with an injury to his right leg. Coach Glenovatch, stressed the importance of this moment both to his team’s emotions and to the on-field chemistry as Bird was replaced by Freshman Conner Rezende who had logged just 54 minutes in 3 games when he entered. The defense began allowing some penetration, but UVA’s freshman goalie Spencer LaCivita was able to save shots from UNC’s Billy Schuler and Enzo Martinez. But at 28:08 Billy Schuler, who tormented the Hoos all night, beat the defense and was able to bury a shot in the right corner of the net.
At halftime UVA was down 1-0 and getting outshot 10-5, but they regrouped and came out fighting. As senior Filipe Libreros said, “We came out to win the game,” and it sure seemed like the Hoos had a good chance to do just that. In the second half the Cavs proved that they could play with one of the best teams in the country. In the first three minutes of the half UVA took two shots that just missed the goal, one wide and one high. About a minute later freshman Calvin Rezende sent a corner kick towards the UNC goal. After popping up in the air twice, the ball squirted out of a crowd and went into the goal. As UVA fans cheered the official called the goal off for an apparent handball. UVA continued to be effective on the offensive end forcing UNC to defend their scoring threats. The Hoos once again looked to tie the game in the middle of the half. For four whole minutes UVA kept high pressure on the UNC D in a sequence that involved three UVA corner kicks and a free kick. “We were really getting at them and I felt like we were gonna score,” said coach Glenovatch. The Cavs just could not find a way to finish.
Thirty minutes of almost dominating UVA play were negated, though, when at 75:06 freshman defender Ryan Zinkhan appeared to make a great defensive play sliding to block a UNC shot inside the box. Zinkhan was whistled for a questionable handball which led to a UNC penalty kick that junior Enzo Martinez put in the top left corner for a 2-0 lead. The final nail in the coffin came at 80:51 as UNC’s Carlos McCrary headed a pass from Mikey Lopez towards the goal. It seemed that Spencer LaCivita would be able to save it but it bounced up off of his hands and snuck in.
UVA’s coaches and players seemed uplifted by what they felt was a strong second half performance against a top team that was undermined by an unlucky penalty call. The Cavs will now get a chance to rest and regroup before their game next Friday at Clemson. With senior leaders Brian Ownby, who played 16 minutes in the game, and Hunter Jumper coming back from injury and suspension, the Wahoos are hopefully about their chances to finish the season strong and do some damage in the postseason.