By: Asma Khan
The Virginia men’s soccer team had a disappointing 4-1 loss Friday evening against #18 Wake Forest at Klockner Stadium. The Demon Deacons proved to be too much for sophomore goalkeeper Spencer LaCivita and the Cavaliers managed to score only one goal near the end of the second half. Senior forward Will Bates scored the Cavalier goal, the 42nd of his career, at the 78:10 mark off an assist by midfielder Brian James. This loss puts the team further down in the ACC standings, with only three ACC matchups remaining on the season. Virginia must win all three of these games in order to avoid ending the season with a losing conference record.
At the start of the game, there were a few exchanges of possession between the teams as neither squad seemed to dominate the field. Just six minutes in, the Demon Deacons took possession and got the ball into the back of the net, seemingly with little trouble. Sophomore forward Sean Okoli scored off of an assist by junior midfielder Jared Watts, after seeing a clear path past the goalkeeper LaCivita. Although Virginia outshot Wake Forest 16-11, the shots were too wayward to carry UVA to a victory. Virginia had seven corner kicks and Wake Forest had four, but these did not directly result in any goals for either team.
Bates’ goal came almost as a surprise to the Cavaliers as they had been consistently thwarted by the Wake Forest defenders. Senior defender Ben Newnam of Wake Forest received a yellow card for prematurely touching the ball during a Virginia free kick and, moments later, the Cavaliers turned around and scored with an eight-yard shot straight past redshirt junior goalkeeper Michael Lisch. This was Bates’s team-leading eighth score of the year.
The team was disappointed with the upset but they thought the season has still been a good one overall. “We’re in good shape. With all the 1-0 losses that we’ve had to the top teams, we’re in decent shape. We just [have to] turn around a few of these last games and we’ll be alright,” Will Bates said. This game featured an early goal from the opponent team, as did the game against High Point Tuesday and Bates also commented on this issue. “It’s definitely a problem that we’re going to have to address. It’s been a trend.”
Wake Forest made two back-to-back goals in the second half, giving them a three-goal lead. Senior midfielder Luciano Delbono made a low shot from 25 yards out with freshman midfielder Collin Martin on the assist. Just under 2 minutes later, freshman forward Michael Gamble pounded one home after maneuvering around LaCivita in the box, this time off an assist from junior midfielder Ross Tomaselli.
There was one key chance in each half for the Cavaliers to score, but they were for not due to a strong Wake Forest defense and Virginia’s inability to make good, quick passes to cross the ball into the box. In the first half, sophomore forward Chris Somerville brought the ball in near the goal but shot it right over the bar from the right and Virginia received a corner kick. The corner kick was deflected by Lisch. Then, with less than 20 minutes remaining in the game, midfielder Brian James had the ball and could either take a shot or pass to a player near the goal. He got caught up by Wake Forest defenders and passed to Somerville, who shot straight over the bar in a wide open shot.
Head coach George Gelnovatch was not completely dismayed by the team’s performance last night. “We played well, to be honest with you,” he said. “I thought the game in long stretches was a very good soccer game. Both teams were moving the ball very well and both teams were going after each other.” Gelnovatch did see the weaknesses in his team during the game, however, and Wake Forest took those as golden opportunities. “Wake Forest is a good team and they capitalized on a couple of our mistakes. They capitalized on two of our mistakes and all of a sudden we find ourselves down 3-0.”
Virginia takes on Wright State Tuesday, Oct. 16 at 7 p.m in Charlottesville. The game will be the final non-conference match of the season. The Cavaliers will take on Virginia Tech Friday, Oct. 19 to wrap up the regular-season home schedule.