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The ball flew through the air, carried over various Syracuse defenders and found the head of UVA midfielder Lacey McCormack. She guided her header toward the goal, beating Syracuse goalie Lysianne Proulx.
Proulx sat on the ground and looked around. She couldn’t have done anything about the goal. Syracuse’s defense had surrendered five goals in a 12-minute span, three of which were through set-pieces.
“There is a reason why [Virginia] is that highly ranked, and they found a way in the second half to hit us where it hurts,” Syracuse head coach Nicky Adams said.
During Syracuse’s (4-8-1, 0-6-0 Atlantic Coast) 5-0 loss to No. 2 Virginia (12-1-1, 5-0-1 Atlantic Coast), the Orange lacked concrete defense on set pieces in the second half, allowing Virginia to swiftly put the game out of reach. The loss marks SU’s seventh consecutive loss and the fourth straight game without a goal.
Syracuse pressed high up the field in the first half, allowing both teams to have opportunities to take the lead. The Orange had several goal-scoring chances towards the beginning of the game but executed any opportunity for an offensive spark poorly in the final third. SU had the first chance of the game in the second minute after senior Meghan Root found herself on the left side with attackers in the middle. Root sent a cross into the middle, but her effort was easily blocked and the ball bounced back off her for a goal kick.
Syracuse had the ball in UVA’s final third three minutes later, but freshman Koby Commandant’s long-through ball was well out of the reach of striker Hannah Pilley. In the 13th minute, SU pushed toward the goal through Root. Root tried using her feet to get a shot off but was dispossessed after getting double-teamed.
“The moments that we were able to unlock them in the midfield, we were able to get forward,” Adams said. “The unfortunate piece was we were letting ourselves down technically with that final pass.”
UVA also created multiple chances to score in the first half. The Cavaliers’ best opportunity came in the 20th minute when Virginia forward Haley Hopkins found herself on the edge of the box with a defender in front of her. Hopkins cut back to her right foot and sent a hard effort towards the top right corner of the goal. Proulx lunged to her left to push the ball away from goal and out for a corner kick with her right hand.
Syracuse’s defense unraveled in the second half after surrendering a series of free kicks. In the 51st minute, a yellow card issued to SU midfielder Pauline Machtens set up a UVA free kick from 20 yards out. Cavalier midfielder Lia Godfrey’s dead-ball effort rose above Proulx’s reach before slamming against the crossbar and flying out of play.
Virginia finally broke the deadlock in the 55th minute off a long set-piece. A lofted free-kick near 35 yards beat all SU defenders and found Hopkins, who sent her header right above Proulx and into the back of the net. UVA scored again two minutes later off another set-piece, this time from a corner kick from the right side. After bouncing off an attacker in the box, defender Lizzy Sieracki volleyed home from close range to double Virginia’s lead.
“I don’t think necessarily, man for man, we did our job that we are supposed to,” Adams said.
The Cavaliers scored their third goal in the 61st minute after Godfrey sent a hard shot right past Proulx for a goal. They scored again one minute later on a low pass from the right side near the byline netted an easy tap in the score for Hopkins. Syracuse again failed to defend a corner in the 67th minute after a right-sided corner glanced off the head of McCormack and found the net for the fifth and final goal of the game.
“The ACC is the best league in women’s soccer,” Adams said. “When you have a depleted roster going against the ACC teams that can play twenty-plus players, you are going to get tired and struggle.”
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