Nov 30, 2014, 10:24 PM EST
A late goal by sophomore forward Nicko Corriveau lifted No. 16 Virginia to a stunning victory over top-ranked Notre Dame in the third round of the NCAA tournament on Sunday night at Alumni Stadium.
A third time proved to be the charm for the Cavaliers, as the match was the third of the season between the ACC foes. The squads tied 1-1 in late September in Charlottesville, and Notre Dame beat Virginia 3-0 three weeks ago in the ACC tournament quarterfinals.
Perhaps this extensive familiarity played a part in the uneventful nature of the first half, as both sides struggled to manufacture dangerous chances on goal. Notre Dame tried again and again to advance the ball into Virginia territory along the left flank and send crosses into the box, but Virginia proved adept at clearing these offerings.
“Virginia put about ten people behind the ball,” senior captain Nick Besler said. “They made us beat them by crossing the ball in. I thought we had some good service on the ball. We just didn’t quite have the right people in the right spot.”
Notre Dame produced the period’s best offensive opportunity in its final minute. Junior midfielder and ACC Offensive Player of the Year Patrick Hodan danced along the right side of the pitch and found room to tightrope along the end line and send a low cross in front of the goal mouth. Junior midfielder Evan Panken was there, but Hodan’s pass ricocheted off his foot and sailed harmlessly over the crossbar.
Hodan came out after intermission and fired a pair of strong shots in the half’s opening minutes, but both strikes veered wide of the frame. From here, Notre Dame’s offense went silent. Clark paired freshmen Jeffrey Farina and Jon Gallagher up top to give Virginia’s defense a new look, but the Cavaliers back line remained staunch.
Virginia’s attack remained quiet as well, but a foul called on Notre Dame in the 82nd minute granted the visitors a free kick from about twenty yards out. The shot was off-line, but a failed clearance by the Irish defense kept the ball alive in the box. Virginia midfielder Pablo Aguilar fired a missile that deflected off a Notre Dame defender and bounced directly to Corriveau, who sent a beautiful volley past Wall.
Notre Dame fought frantically to even the score, but Virginia held strong.
“After [the goal], there were a couple of chances we almost got a hold of,” Irish head coach Bobby Clark said. “Could we have done that earlier? I don’t know. I think we just kept thinking a goal was going to come. Once you get behind, you’ve got to really go into overdrive and you’ve got to really go for it. We knew that time was short and we put in a good effort, but it just wasn’t enough.”
The loss surely stung, but Clark lauded his club’s performance all the same.
“It’s funny,” Clark said. “I thought we were definitely the better side today. Of the three games we’ve played against them this year, possibly this was the game we had most control over. This was the one I was most comfortable in, yet this was the one we lost.”
Notre Dame was blanked for the first time in over a month, and for the fifth time this season.
“Full marks to Virginia,” Clark said. “They defended very well and didn’t give us many clear-cut chances. They just don’t give up many goals.”
The defeat ends the careers of a host of seniors and graduate students, who have plenty reasons to hold their heads high.
“Every single senior can be really proud of what we’ve done,” Besler said. “We have a national championship. In ten, fifteen years when we start looking back on things, we’ll realize how lucky we really are. There are a lot of athletes out there that will never have a national championship. And in the last three years, we were the number one overall seed in the tournament twice, and the number three seed last year. So, three out of the four years we’ve been here, we’ve been the best team in the country. That’s pretty remarkable.”
The Cavaliers will attempt to advance to a second consecutive College Cup next weekend when they travel to No. 8 Georgetown to face the Hoyas.
“Virginia took the chance when it came along,” Clark said. “They’re a good team, and I wish them all the best.”
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