Top-ranked Virginia held Campbell to one shot on goal and advanced to its third men’s soccer Sweet 16 in four years with a 2-0 win at Klöckner Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
On a day when high winds made the ball’s path difficult to predict at times, the Cavaliers (18-1-1) consistently attacked the No. 24 Camels (14-4-2) and outshot the Big South champions 19-2.
“To get our second [goal], I think that’s what we really needed,” said junior forward Nathaniel Crofts, who scored the second UVa goal in the 83rd minute after assisting on Spencer Patton’s icebreaker in the 36th. “We knew [Campbell] was going to come out in the second half and push up on us.”
The Camels had scored nine goals combined in their previous four games, but registered just one shot in the final 45 minutes. The Cavaliers also held the nation’s leading scorer, Thibault Jacquel, without a shot attempt.
UVa ruled both time and quality of possession, keeping the ball for 59 percent of the time and spending a total of one-third of the game attacking Campbell’s defensive half.
“I had a feeling that they weren’t going to be able to keep up that kind of defense of cutting down passing lanes, and sure enough, the second half — God, when I look at the expected goals, I think it’s probably going to be over three with the chances that we had,” said Virginia head coach George Gelnovatch.
Crofts, currently signed to his hometown club of Sheffield United — who sit in sixth place in the Premier League — fed in a deep cross from the right channel in the 37th minute, which UVa defender Spencer Patton met before Campbell goalie Samuel Lechuga could get to it.
Then, with less than six minutes left in the game, Axel Gunnarsson rebounded his own failed cross attempt off a Campbell defender’s leg, and kept the ball in long enough to drill a low cross to Crofts at the far post left. Croft’s kick past the outstretched arms of a diving Lechuga sealed Virginia’s second straight trip to the NCAA Tournament’s round of 16 after a devastating last-second overtime loss in South Bend last year.
Crofts was glad to have the opening-round jitters out of the way for the team, seeking its eighth national championship and third since 2009.
“Coach just said it at the end, the first one’s always the hardest one,” he said. “We’re just coming off the ACC championship, it’s just a lot of pressure, everyone wants to beat No. 1.”
Virginia will play No. 16 national seed St. John’s at Klöckner Stadium next Sunday night. A win would give UVa one more home game this season between Dec. 6-8.