Virginia Tech’s season came to an end Friday night as the team fell to No. 24 Xavier 1–0 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. The Hokies (12–5–2) had the home field advantage against the Musketeers (16–3–2), but they ended up getting knocked out of the tournament in just their 11th tournament appearance in program history.
The two teams have an interesting history together as former Atlantic 10 rivals from 1995 to 2000, but Tech has never defeated Xavier in any of their seven matchups.
Xavier opened up the scoring less than a minute and a half into the game with a goal by midfielder Molly McLaughlin to make it a 1–0 deficit for the Hokies. McLaughlin found the ball at her feet towards the middle of the 18-yard box and had an easy finish with her inside foot as goalie Mandy McGlynn failed to read the play through the crowded box. That was McLaughlin’s fourth goal of the season.
Xavier kept its foot on the gas on the offensive attack as they almost got past McGlynn again on a well-designed corner kick that found forward Brooke Sroka getting a header on goal nine minutes into the game. Sroka came into the game because starting forward Jackie Richards had to come off after a hard hit to the head.
Forward Emma Steigerwald would end up getting the first major chance for the Hokies in the 18th minute as she took a touch and unloaded a blast from 25 yards out that rocketed off the top crossbar and kept the Musketeers' lead intact.
Midfielder Lily Weber got another big chance for Tech in the 27th minute when she found space towards the left sideline with an opportunity to slide a shot past the goalkeeper. The senior’s shot went far right, and the Hokies lost another golden opportunity to break even.
After a tough start, the Hokies were able to control possession for the greater part of the first half. Despite this, Xavier made stops when it mattered and held Tech without a shot on goal for the entirety of the half.
The second half started in a similar fashion to the first half as Xavier got the big chances early, but Virginia Tech controlled the ball on the attacking side more frequently, but just couldn’t put the ball in the net.
Sroka once again got a big chance for Xavier on a breakaway towards the right sideline in the 47th minute. Sroka’s on-ball speed was impressive and she nearly doubled Xavier’s lead had McGlynn not come up with a big save.
Tech then got a huge opportunity to tie the game up in the 56th minute when defender Jaylyn Thompson rushed down the right corner of the box and sent in a cross that went off Xavier midfielder Grace Brauer and skipped off the right side of the post.
The near own-goal led to much-needed momentum for Tech’s offensive attack, which was at its most threatening on a cross inside the box. The threat to score got even closer as forward Molly Fieghan took a long shot from the left side of the box that was ultimately scooped up by Jenkins.
With just under five minutes to play, Tech nearly got a big attacking run going before a handball was called as the ball made an awkward bounce towards the arm of Thompson much to the chagrin of the home stands.
At the end of the game, Kozlova nearly scored a game-tying goal with just seconds remaining on a brilliant run towards the middle, but she couldn’t get it through as Jenkins took an excellent angle in a save that preserved Xavier’s lead as the Musketeers won their first NCAA Tournament game in school history.
It was a tough loss for the Hokies, who played a challenging game against a quality opponent, but Xavier was able to hang on after its early goal. Xavier will now get a chance to continue its success in the next round to play the winner of the game between No. 3 Kansas and Iowa that will take place on Nov. 16.