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Virginia women’s soccer team defeats Notre Dame in front of massive crowd

Virginia women’s soccer team defeats Notre Dame in front of massive crowd

UVa soccer

Virginia’s Haley Hopkins, left, celebrates during the Cavaliers’ win over Notre Dame on Sunday at Klöckner Stadium.

For 81 minutes of action Sunday, Virginia and Notre Dame were scoreless. The final nine minutes provided plenty of fireworks for the crowd of 2,490 at Klöckner Stadium.

UVa scored twice in 37 seconds to take a 2-0 lead with eight minutes left. Then, with the game seemingly over, Notre Dame fought back to keep fans on the edge of their seats until the clock struck zero. The Fighting Irish added a goal in the 85th minute, pulling within a goal and battling to the very end.

“Kind of crazy,” UVa senior forward Alexa Spaanstra said. “Maybe a little boring in the beginning … but we could really hear the crowd toward the end of it with some chants and stuff like that. We knew once we got one goal that we’d be able to break them again.”

It was a tremendous display of soccer from the two ranked ACC programs, and No. 2 UVa (13-1-1, 6-0-1 ACC) ultimately outlasted No. 17 Notre Dame (12-2-1, 6-1 ACC) for a 2-1 win.

The performance pleased the majority of the crowd, which was UVa’s biggest since an Oct. 14, 2017 match against Clemson. That game, a 0-0 draw, drew 2,596 fans.

“I definitely got the chills before the game,” forward Haley Hopkins said, “just taking the field and hearing the booming cheering was something special.”

Spaanstra was the one who first brought the entire crowd to its feet. With the game scoreless in the 82nd minute, Spaanstra broke free and knocked a pass from Lia Godfrey by Notre Dame goalkeeper Ashley Naylor.

UVa fans roared as the Cavaliers took the lead.

Less than a minute later, Spaanstra feed a beautiful pass from the right side of the field to Hopkins. The Vanderbilt graduate transfer found the ball in the air and headed it into the back of the net, giving UVa a 2-0 lead.

Once again, the home faithful erupted.

“It was an electric feeling scoring those goals and hearing the fans,” Hopkins said.

Notre Dame didn’t go down quietly in its first ACC loss of the season. The Fighting Irish used a goal in the final six minutes by freshman midfielder Korbin Albert to pull within one.

Unfortunately for Notre Dame, it couldn’t find the equalizer in the final few minutes.

After controlling possession in the first half, UVa was greeted by a more aggressive Notre Dame team in the second half. The Fighting Irish looked the part of an ACC contender before the Cavaliers blitzed them with a pair of goals late in the match.

Either side could’ve left the field with a win, but the Cavaliers found a way to secure the victory.

“These are the games you have to win if you want to be in the hunt for a championship,” Virginia head coach Steve Swanson said.

It was a celebratory ending for the sizable home crowd.

Those in attendance also celebrated the program’s first Pride Game. Set up by the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC), UVa celebrated the LGBTQ+ community at the contest. Pride flags were displayed near UVa’s sideline during the match.

“I think it’s what our culture is all about,” Swanson said. “I think it’s what the university is all about. We’re very proud of the game, and we are a very inclusive team. We respect diversity. This means a lot to us.”

UVa returns to action Thursday when it hosts Louisville (7-5-1, 3-4 ACC).

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