The second-ranked Virginia women’s soccer team began the 2012 NCAA Tournament with a 4-1 victory over No. 20 La Salle on Friday night in front of 989 fans at Klöckner Stadium. The Cavaliers downed a ranked opponent for the sixth straight game and improved to 17-4-1 overall, while the Explorers end their season with a 17-5-1 mark.
Junior forward Gloria Douglas led Virginia with one goal and two assists, while Caroline Miller and Kate Norbo each had a goal and an assist on the night.
“I am happy about the result,” said head coach Steve Swanson. “We knew this was going to be a tough game and it was. La Salle is ranked for a reason. This was the toughest opponent we have played in a first round game since I have been here. .”
The Cavaliers wasted little time to take the lead as Miller struck in the fourth minute. Erica Hollenberg found Miller inside the box and the ACC Offensive Player of the Year curled in a shot inside the far post for her 17th goal of the season. Miller, who has scored a goal in the last six contests, is one goal shy of Angela Hucles’ single-season UVa scoring record of 18 goals set in 1997.
“Getting the first goal, especially early, is always important,” said Miller. “It sets the tempo and lets us settle into the game a little bit. To be able to take the lead that early gave us a lot of momentum to start off with.”
Virginia doubled its lead just over 10 minutes before halftime. A passing sequence from Norbo to Douglas to Morgan Brian set up a chance for the ACC Tournament MVP at the top of the box. She placed a shot just inside the post for her fourth goal of the season. All four of those goals have come in the past three games.
La Salle cut the lead in half in the 59th minute, taking advantage of the free kick opportunity. After a foul near midfield, Courtney Niemiec sent a ball into the box that Kelsey Haycook headed past everyone and into the net for her ninth goal of the season.
The Cavaliers extended the lead back to two with a goal in the 78th minute. Miller gained control of a ball in the box, made a move to the end line and fired a cross towards the far post. The ball hit off Douglas and into the side of the net for her fifth goal of the season.
Virginia closed out the scoring three minutes later. Douglas sent a wide ball to Morgan Stith, who sent a cross to Norbo at the penalty spot. Norbo collected the ball, turned, and fired in her fifth goal of the season.
The Cavaliers outshot the Explorers 20-8 in the game and each team had two corner kicks. DeLisle made two saves in goal for Virginia, while Gabby Pakhtigian made four saves at the other end for La Salle.
“Coming off the emotional high of last weekend, winning the ACC Championship, you are always concerned with how you will come out,” said Swanson. “We weren’t as sharp as we were last week, but give La Salle a lot of credit, they put some pressure on us. If you let a team like that hang around long enough, they can make you pay. This certainly wasn’t a game that felt like 4-1. Anyone who saw it knows this was a very competitive game and we are glad to be moving on.”
With the victory, Virginia remains one of just five schools to advance to the second round every year since the tournament went to 64 teams in 2001.
Virginia will host second and third round action next Friday and Sunday at Klöckner Stadium. The Cavaliers will face the winner of Saturday’s Colgate-Rutgers game in the second round on Friday.