NCAA: Virginia 6, Maryland 1 – Attitude and More

Virginia senior defender Molly Menchel and freshman goalkeeper Morgan Stearns are happy with their ACC first-round victory but look for more


Going into the match, I thought the key was whether or not Maryland could put a ball in the net against the #1 Virginia Cavaliers. The Terrapins have frequently struggled to score this year, while the home team hadn’t allowed a goal in 568 minutes despite playing North Carolina, Florida State, and Virginia Tech – all top ten teams – in that interval.

So when just over four minutes in Maryland forward Hayley Brock scored a spectacular unassisted goal, looping the ball over a defender and goalkeeper Morgan Stearns from a sharp angle on the right, I thought it was “game on.” In retrospect, though, it seemed like that was the worst thing that could have happened for the visitors. After an initial rush of enthusiasm following the goal, all the drive seemed to fall out of the team.

“We played pretty well in the first ten minutes,” said Maryland head coach Jonathan Morgan. “And then we just got to the point where we wanted to protect the lead. We stopped playing. We stopped moving and working off the ball. We were just content on defending. But there’s another eighty minutes to go in the game, seventy-five minutes, you can’t defend that long.”

Meanwhile, the early goal just seemed to make Virginia mad and eager to level the tally and then some. “If we give up a goal, we all take responsibility for it and know we need to come back and get it back,” said Cavaliers goalkeeper Morgan Stearns. “If you give it up in the first five or ten minutes, you have an entire game left. That means nothing if it’s that early. So for us, if you give it up early, you have to get one back.”

It ended up being a lot more than one. The equalizer came right at the 27:00 mark with Annie Steinlage sending a high ball in from the left that Morgan Brian headed in from outside the right post. Then the skies opened on Maryland. In the 33rd minute, Brian crossed a ball in from the right end line that Danielle Colaprico fired in with one touch from her left foot. In the 39th minute the Washington Spirit Reserves’ Morgan Reuther became the 11th different Cav to score a goal on the season when she got the ball in the box in traffic following a steal and put it in the net. Five minutes later Brian got her second goal, sending a free kick from 24 yards out off Maryland goalkeeper Rachelle Beanlands’ hands and into the net.

With the score 4-1, the game was pretty much over at that point, and for the second half both teams emptied their benches. Morgan subbed in goalkeeper Kristene Mumby to start the second half, along with some other changes, and UVA coach Steve Swanson eventually did similarly, taking Stearns out and putting Churchill O’Connell in.

Virginia would score two more goals, both late in the game and both from subs. Amber Fry headed in a far post cross from Brittany Ratcliffe in the 82nd minute, then Mary Morgan headed in a Ratcliffe corner kick in the 88th.

The final stats were as ugly as the score: 24 shots for Virginia to 5 for Maryland, shots on goal 11 to 3, corner kicks 8 to 3.

And while Virginia was clearly the more talented team, the result seemed as much about attitude as ability. Virginia wanted it more and didn’t give up. You can’t say the same about Maryland. Late in the game a loose ball landed in the middle of three Terrapins and one Cavalier. Guess who came away with the ball?

And even with this win Virginia is looking for more. Asked what it was like to be the #1 team in the country, Stearns responded: “I kind of remind myself that we haven’t achieved anything yet that we want to achieve. Yeah, we have had a perfect record, but we haven’t gotten an ACC championship yet, we haven’t had an NCAA championship yet, and that’s what we want to get.”

All I can say is, “Look out.”

8 thoughts on “NCAA: Virginia 6, Maryland 1 – Attitude and More

  1. Ed F

    Great writeup and appreciate the insight that you give every day. not many write on W Soccer but this site not only gives good articles but in depth in site – kudos to you.

    And yes, this Virginia team plays well and plays with an edge. An absolute joy to watch at times. . . They have some holes but teams haven’t figured out how to exploit them yet. .. It’s going to be interesting to see how they do in the ACC final 4 and the NCAA when teams everything is on the line. Defense usually wins championships and this team defense is more offense which has worked so far. Will have to see what happens if a team can frustrate them which hasn’t happened yet.

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  2. Maryland lost to a better team

    As Maryland fan, I’d say many of us knew in our hearts going in what the likely result of this game was going to be – just not quite how big the margin. Virginia is in a different class this year and few, if any, teams can compete. It was a sad day- especially for the Maryland seniors- who’ve played their hearts out while the team dealt with players missing all or portions of the season – and who now are facing the real possibility of not making the NCAAS for their final season. Congrats to UVA on their excellent team play; it was a pleasure to watch you this year. Good luck to the Maryland seniors in completing their studies. I’ve got my fingers crossed for an NCAA spot.

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  3. sec

    Very good write-up. This really is Virginia in a nutshell — they are more talented than any team out there. But, they won’t win the big one unless they bring that attitude and confidence in every match. Indeed, against really good teams, like UCLA or FSU, they’ll need to have that attitude for 90 minutes. Conceding an early goal against UCLA or FSU won’t be just a friendly wake-up call, as it was against Maryland (or Duke, in late September), but a difficult hurdle.

    Anyway, the McNabb injury has to be a worry for UVA, as it would appear to force two-way players (like Menchel) to play 90 minutes, and thus, limit their energy to get forward. On the bright side for UVA, some players are playing their best soccer of the season — e.g., Annie Steinlage, Emily Sonnett.

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        1. Ed F

          Pretty sure its an ACL and out for the season. Hope she recovers well for next year. Very unfortunate and will definitely impact their defensive substitution pattern as she was the first defensive sub off the bench.

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    1. VaFan

      I have to disagree that UVa is “more talented than any team out there.” Morgan Brian aside, their roster is not laden with high school All-Americans and youth national team veterans, as are most other Top 10 teams, including at least two in the ACC. Nor are they likely to be dominant in post-season all-star teams.
      Having seen 80% of their home matches this year, I think this group has the best on-field chemistry and organization I have ever seen in a college team. But, to me, the single greatest factor in the whole process has been Steve Swanson’s coaching. “Style of play” is an over-used term, but it really is true that UVa’s style of play this season has been a joy to watch; much of the time, they make a swarming possession and passing approach seem so natural, sometimes effortless. And, typical of him, Swanson says that teaching this style is “easy” is you do it repeatedly in practice.
      I think coaching often is overrated as a factor in a high-quality team’s success, especially if those players have individual skills superior to the opposition; I mean, you should win, right? But there are ‘way too many college stars who do not significantly improve over their 4 year careers (the temptation to name names… ) because their coaches are not developing them — just sending them out there to win. I think what we have seen at UVa this year is a classic case of a smart, visionary coach developing players as individuals and as a team.

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      1. Ed F

        was going to post something similar but slightly disagree. UVa is more talented than probably every team in the ACC except for UNC. UNC has more talent than most others teams. FSU and Virginia are very close in their overall talent level. You can’t say Uva does not have their share of All Americans, ODP and 4*+ players. I believe the current roster of Brian 5*, Doniak 5*, Sonnett 5*, Shaffer 5*, Ratcliffe 4*, Reuther 4*, Stearns 4*, Johnson 4*, Colaprico 4*, McNabb 4* is nothing to sneeze at. Don’t forget Brannon who transferred was also a 5* in her class. . So talent wise Virginia has definitely quietly raised their profile in the last few years. . . . You don’t realize it, but its deceptively talented and loaded. .

        That being said – there are some that the system gives you an advantage. Swanson has taken this style of play and given them a greater “edge” than other teams. With the womens game, this is even more apparent with his tiki-taka style of ball possession and attacking football.. It kind of reminds me of Arsenal in the EPL – they play possession, they are talented but not the most talented but its attack attack attack.

        It is an absolute joy to watch. . On any given day this year, they should be favorites, but since soccer is a fickle sport, if a team does nothing but play to PK’s, anything can happen.. . And just like arsenal, if you push too hard, you open yourself to a counter and this defense is similar. It’s good, fast, skilled and sound – just not overwhelmingly so.

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