BOCA RATON, Fla. -- Whew.
That may have been the most obvious emotion on the face of Virginia players and their head coach, Steve Swanson, following Friday’s semifinal victory in the 2014 Division I Women’s Championship.
A 3-1 victory against Texas A&M (22-3-2) in Friday’s first semifinal, played at Florida Atlantic University Stadium, propelled the Cavaliers (23-2) into their first College Cup championship game.
“Happy to be moving on,” Swanson said. “It’s a good result for us.”
Not that Virginia players didn’t shriek and dash about the field once the clock had expired and triumph was theirs. They did. They also composed themselves to allow accomplishment to sink in.
To understand their calm, understand they were the ones processing a grating national semifinal defeat a year ago, to eventual national champion ULCA. On penalty kicks.
They scored enough goals on Friday, holding a 2-1 lead after the first half and icing things late, at 86:33, on a goal from Alexis Shaffer. Virginia entered Friday’s national semifinal leading the nation in scoring with a 3.54 goals-per-game average.
“I think the better team won [Friday], pure and simple,” Texas A&M head coach G Guerrieri said. “I don’t think we can blame anything on anything else.”
Playing in its first College Cup, Guerrieri’s team supplied significant pressure in the second half, yet couldn’t cash in. So it was the Aggies who departed with a remorse similar to that which had dogged Virginia since last December.
“One of the unfortunate things about this event is three great teams are going to go home in tears,” Guerrieri said. “And that’s what happens when you have the caliber of teams you have in this sport.”
“They were everything we thought they would be,” Swanson said of Guerrieri’s squad. “They played with a lot of heart and I think their university and their community can be really proud of their efforts.”
The Cavaliers are playing in their third College Cup. They lost in the semifinals in their first experience in 1991 and suffered the heartbreaking loss to ULCA last year. Perhaps their mindset, as they prepare for Sunday’s national-title game, is more one of a job well done.
“Obviously it’s great to move on,” Swanson said. “I think the tournament run has been good for us. Last year was tough. We thought we played well enough to win but we lost to a really good team. You get goals, it gives your team a little confidence.”
Virginia’s first goal came quickly, from Makenzy Doniak, at 12:11. Texas A&M fought back to tie at 31:59 on a goal from Kelley Monogue. But the most decisive Virginia score came on Emily Sonnett’s goal at 43:24, with less than two minutes remaining in the first half.
Teammate Daniella Colaprico’s corner kick was deflected by Tina Iordanau to Sonnett, who didn’t miss, beating Texas A&M goalkeeper Jordan Day for her fifth goal of the season.
“Danny hit a great ball across, and I think Tina hit it back across the goalkeeper, and I was just lucky enough to get it in,” Sonnett said.
The Aggies’ second-half pressure kept life interesting for Virginia goalkeeper Morgan Stearns. She notched two saves in the first half and three in the second. Two of those second-half saves -- one at 70:01 on a shot from Texas A&M’s Annie Kunz, and another at 76:41 from Monogue -- proved crucial.
“I thought getting that second goal when we did at the end of the half, helped,” Swanson said. “And in the second half, full credit to Texas A&M. I thought they played with grit and have us everything we could handle.”