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Spaanstra gives Virginia women's soccer team a spark in NCAA Tournament

Spaanstra gives Virginia women's soccer team a spark in NCAA Tournament


Virginia’s Alexa Spaanstra has been able to create mismatches for the Cavaliers with her speed.

Her last jolt of acceleration finished the job.

Late in the second half of top-seeded Virginia’s 2-0 win over Milwaukee in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Thursday at Klöckner Stadium, Cavaliers senior forward Alexa Spaanstra had another burst of speed left when the opposition did not.

“It’s huge, especially moving laterally on the line,” UVa junior forward Diana Ordoñez said of Spaanstra’s quickness. “She just throws a fake and then she’s gone. That really helps us, obviously, to get to the end line. Anywhere where she can cross the ball, she’s dangerous. And dribbling at people, she’s just a dangerous player all around. She’s fast. She can turn on a dime. She can serve the ball really well and score goals.”

In this case, Spaanstra’s hustle resulted On Ordoñez’s second goal of the night — her team-leading 18th of the campaign — and the score UVa (18-2-2) would win by to advance to Saturday’s 7 p.m. Sweet 16 tilt with No. 4-seed BYU (15-4-1).

The 5-foot-5 Spaanstra sprinted up the right sideline while carefully dribbling past the Hoos’ bench and avoiding defenders before changing direction, angling toward the net and lifting her head up in order to find Ordoñez, who delivered the ball past the keeper in the 83rd minute.

“We knew we were beating them end line a lot,” Spaanstra said, “and we were just trying to do that repetitively, so I knew if I got end line and got goal line that the cutback would be on, and Ordoñez was there.”

Said UVa coach Steve Swanson: “They were trying to get cover over the flanks and that was the thing, if we could move the ball quick enough and get it over to the outside where [Spaanstra] is isolated, we felt like we had an advantage. Certainly, on that last one, we did.”

The late goal polished off a victory in which UVa dominated the visitor, outshooting Milwaukee 17-2 in the contest even though the Cavaliers didn’t hold a multi-goal advantage until there were only seven minutes left.

So, the spark Spaanstra provided sends UVa with momentum into its matchup with the Cougars, who beat Alabama, 4-1, earlier Thursday thanks to a hat trick and an assist from senior midfielder Mikayla Colohan.

BYU has outscored its opponents, 10-1, through the first two rounds of the tournament, and the champion of the West Coast Conference is no stranger to the Cavaliers. The two programs met this past spring when UVa knocked off BYU, 2-0, behind two goals from Spaanstra in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

“They’re very athletic and very attack-oriented,” Swanson said. “They’ve got a very good team. We were lucky to weather the early storm last year, but it’s what it should be now. There’s not a lot of teams left now and we got a good game [Thursday] and we knew we were going to get that. We’ve got a good game Saturday and it’s about performing right now. We just have to perform and do the things you need to do in order to win. We’ll have our hands full.”

The Cougars entered Thursday as the country’s leader in scoring (3.58 per game). Colohan has 16 goals to top the team and senior forward Cameron Tucker has 15.

UVa’s experienced duo of Spaanstra and Ordoñez should have the Cavaliers ready, though. Ordoñez, the Atlantic Coast Conference Offensive Player of the Year this fall, has scored in six of the Cavaliers’ last seven games. And Spaanstra, a four-time All-ACC selection, has seven goals to go along with nine assists this season.

“They definitely got up on us in the spring,” Ordoñez said about the previous encounter with the Cougars. “We were under it really bad, and I think we got a little lucky with the first goal until we could get our composure, but that is a good team and we’re excited to play them. Better teams are better for us because we want better competition and that’ll be a fun rematch.”

Spaanstra said the Cavaliers hope to benefit from their strong home crowd again, too, which she said has helped them through the first two rounds. There were 1,201 in attendance for UVa’s first-round win over High Point last week and 1,445 in the stands to see the Cavaliers beat Milwaukee.

“It’s a lot of fun,” Spaanstra said, “especially being at home and with the homefield advantage, just having our routines, our own field and our own fans is super exciting.”

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