In the end, it was sloppiness that doomed No. 4 Northwestern (1-1) in its first loss of the season to No. 10 Virginia.
In the Wildcats' second game of the season, they dug themselves too deep a hole to climb out of. Trailing by four, 10-6, with about six minutes to play, they mounted a furious rally, but came up short against the Cavaliers, who claimed the Cobb County Showcase with a 10-8 victory Saturday afternoon.
The call which will stay in the memories of the players and the fans came with about three minutes to go and Northwestern losing by two goals. After two quick goals by the Wildcats, courtesy of Shelby Fredericks and Selena Lasota, both sophomores, the team had trimmed the deficit to two goals. Sheila Nesselbush forced a turnover, giving the ball to the Wildcats and in transition, and Virginia was called for a yellow card.
With a player advantage, the ever-dangerous Lasota had the ball and was double-teamed, and when she tried to split the trap, she was called for an offensive call, a rare call in any circumstance and a slightly questionable one in this situation. Virginia was able to run out the rest of the clock and hold on for the upset.
In the first half, it was a close, but sloppy game. Both teams contributed to the sloppiness. Each team turned it over seven times and found it difficult to control ground balls, leading to scrums on the field with huddled masses of players.
Northwestern dominated time of possession early, getting on the board first from a nice goal by senior Kaleigh Craig, with the assist going to sophomore Corinne Wessels. After that, it was a back-and-forth affair. Virginia took a 2-1 lead before Craig scored her second, against the grain of play. Virginia had been dominating the ball.
Virginia took a 5-3 lead into the halftime break, scoring a goal 12 seconds before halftime — a backbreaker to give up for the Wildcats. Virginia just managed to sneak one by Northwestern's goalie, freshman Mallory Weisse, who has been in fine form in the team's first two games this season.
More fine play in the back from Weisse
Although Northwestern gave up double-digit goals and lost, this was still a strong game from the freshman keeper. She had a number of impressive saves, and in big spots, too. With Virginia already up 9-6 and on the fast break, bearing down down on her goal, she came up with a big save which gave Northwestern possession. Unluckily, they turned it over and Virginia was able o convert on their next possession.
Another facet of the game where Weisse was strong was defending free position shots, perhaps the trickiest aspect of the game from a goalie’s perspective. Weisse hunkers down in her goal during these shots, blocking it with her frame and using her quick reactions to stop the shot. Virginia was only 1-5 on free position shots in the first half.
Turnovers and draw controls
Although this was a sloppy game all-around, Virginia was able to clean things up somewhat in the second half while Northwestern continued to struggle with holding onto the ball, cutting short some of their offensive possessions and ultimately dooming their comeback effort.
Another area of concern was the draw control. Northwestern has a rich history of draw control specialists, like Alyssa Leonard, but has struggled to find one in recent years. Last year, as a freshman, it seemed Fredericks was being groomed as a potential specialist. She did well in this area during the Duke game, but struggled somewhat against Virginia, ultimately being swapped out for Lasota and 5-foot-10 freshman Liza Elder. Elder’s height should be an advantage and she had some success in the circle, including winning a huge draw after Virginia went up 9-6.
As the season progress with this young team, expect these areas to improve–and they will have to for the Wildcats to progress deep into the postseason. But coach Kelly Amonte Hiller will surely not be pleased with the sloppy play in this one.
Although the team almost came up with a comeback, the team did not feel as dangerous today as it did against Duke, when the offense was clicking on all cylinders. Redshirt-junior Christina Esposito recorded her second straight multi-goal game and Craig also had a two goal game, but the offense felt lacking today. That could have been due to a lack of ball movement, with perhaps one or two too many isolation drives by Lasota which resulted in either missed shots or turnovers. Or maybe it was disciplined defense by the Cavaliers, who stuck tight to Lasota at all times and collapsed their defense well against other driving Wildcats.
British Columbia-native Danita Stroup recorded her second goal of the year today, scoring in the first half, while Fredericks recorded her first goals of the year, having a multi-goal game of her own.