Virginia Men Win NCAA Tournament Opener

Will Bates headed home a Scott Thomsen corner kick in the 87th minute for the match’s lone goal as the Virginia men’s soccer team claimed a 1-0 victory over Lafayette Thursday afternoon in a first-round NCAA tournament match at Klöckner Stadium. UVa (10-6-4) extended its unbeaten streak to seven straight matches, while ending the Lafayette (9-8-4) seven-match unbeaten string.

Virginia will travel to No. 13 seed New Mexico for a second-round match at 9 p.m. Sunday in Albuquerque. The Cavaliers and Lobos (16-3-1) will meet for just the second time in men’s soccer; they played to a 1-1 draw in the 2004 NCAA Tournament in Charlottesville, with UVa advancing over the top-ranked Lobos in a penalty-kick shootout.

“Lafayette was a really tough team to break down,” Virginia head coach George Gelnovatch said. “I was happy with the second half, more than the first half, just in terms of being in their end more than they were in our end, and finding a way at this important time of the year to get a goal – and who else but a guy who comes through in big moments like Will Bates.”

The teams slogged through a physical, defensive-dominated match throughout before UVa broke through with just 2:40 remaining in the contest. On the third of three straight corner kicks, Thomsen lofted the ball to the center of the box where Bates leaped in traffic to put a head on it and knock it past goalkeeper Nathan McDonald.

The goal was Bates’ team-leading 12th score of the year, while Thomsen registered his team-best seventh assist. Bates now has 46 career goals, which is seventh most in program history. He also has 102 career points, which is ninth in the UVa annals.

“There are so many things (that Bates does), that goal is the cherry on top of what he does,” Gelnovatch said. “The intangible things of defensive restarts, leadership, a calming presence. All of those things that he brings to the team are so important.”

Lafayette out-shot UVa, 6-2, in the first half and controlled possession for much of the half, but Virginia came out strong in the second half with constant pressure in the Leopards’ half of the field. UVa had a pair of good scoring opportunities in the 81st minute when a Jordan Poarch shot from 15 yards was deflected away, and a Bates header on the ensuing corner kick was smothered in heavy traffic.

While Lafayette out-shot the Cavaliers, 13-8, UVa goalkeeper Spencer LaCivita was only challenged with two shots on goal. McDonald made three saves for Lafayette.

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