Women’s Soccer: Third-seeded UVA faces Xavier in NCAA Tournament

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The No. 3-seeded Virginia women’s soccer team resumes NCAA postseason play Friday afternoon at 2 p.m. with a second-round matchup against Xavier at Jeffrey Field at State College, Penn.

A win would buy the 11th-ranked Cavaliers their ticket to a Sweet 16 matchup Sunday at 5 p.m. when they meet the winner between No. 2 and host Penn State (Big Ten Tournament Champions) and No. 7 West Virginia (Big 12 Tournament Champions). The Nittany Lions (14-4-3) and Mountaineers (11-4-7) will face off in game two at Jeffrey Field on Friday at 4:30 p.m.

Virginia is aiming to reach the round of 16 for the 17th time in the last 18 games. Head Coach Steve Swanson is an all-time 45-18-7 in NCAA tournament competition with the Wahoos, beating his opponents 168-65.

The Cavaliers (14-3-3) defeated Fairleigh Dickinson 4-0 in shutout fashion over the weekend, while the Musketeers (15-3-5) defeated No. 6 seed Tennessee 4-1 on the road in the Doubles defeated Overtime in what is one of six upsets in the 64-team group in the opening round. Friday’s competition, which will air on ESPN+, will be the first career meeting between Virginia and Xavier.

UCLA (18-2-0) is the top seed in Virginia’s region and meets Central Florida (10-2-5) on Friday while the No. 4 Northwestern (15-4-2) takes on Vanderbilt (12-). . 4-4) in Los Angeles. The Golden Knights upset No. 8-seeded NC State 4-2 in penalties while the Commodores beat No. 5 Clemson 1-0 in the first round. Whichever team emerges from those four in LA will take on the State College winner next weekend, with a trip to the College Cup in Cary, NC (December 2-5) at stake.

A trip to the quarterfinals next week, should the Wahoos advance, would be their ninth in program history and eighth under Swanson (2001, ’05, ’11, ’13, ’14, ’15 and ’20-21).

The Cavaliers, who were 6-2-2 in their last 10 games, overtook the FDU well for sixth-under behind solid play from senior goaltender Cayla White, who recorded nine solo shutouts of the team’s 13 in the season the Division I schools . White recorded 46 saves (.793) this year as UVA has allowed just 12 goals on 116 shots all season.

“There are things we can take away from this game,” Swanson said after beating the Knights on Saturday. “We’ve done some good things, but we need to be more consistent in how we manage games like this. We won, which is good, but when you win and you can learn some things and apply them to the next game, that’s a good thing too.”

Third-year midfielder Lia Godfrey, who became a hero in the regular-season flurries of the Cavaliers against top-five conference opponents North Carolina and Duke with winners, was an All-ACC selection of firsts for the second straight season team year.

She will be joined in the starting XI by senior forward Haley Hopkins, who had a team-high 28 points (12 goals, 4 assists) en route to All-ACC Second Team honors. Hopkins brought the hoos up early in the opening round against Fairleigh Dickinson.

Forward Alexa Spaanstra’s 34 career assists rank third in the country. She was a third-team All-ACC artist, earning all conference honors for the fifth straight year. Spaanstra, who gave UVA a 2-0 lead in the 60th minute against FDU, has scored 8 goals this season, including back-to-back winners against NC State and Miami, while dishing out 5 assists.

The Cavaliers’ other starting forward, Maggie Cagle, leads the Hoos with 10 assists, including 6 on winners, and sent home two crucial goals of her own in 2022 (Oregon State, Wake Forest). It was Cagle who hit Hopkins for the go-ahead in the 7th minute against Fairleigh Dickinson.

Xavier scored three goals in the extra sessions last week against the 22nd-ranked Volunteers and second striker Chloe Netzel put the Musketeers ahead in the 94th minute. Graduated midfielder Molly McLaughlin (the team’s top scorer with 7 goals) and youngster Sonia Vargas added two more before time was up to cement the upset.

“These big games boil down to big moments and big players,” said Xavier coach Nate Lie after the win, “and I think luckily we found those moments, we have those players.”

Friday’s matchup against the Cavaliers is only their second second-round appearance in program history after they defeated Virginia Tech in the 2019 opening round. The Musketeers lost 1-0 to Georgetown on November 6 in the Big East Championship.

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