WACO, Texas – Texas Tech took No. 12 Virginia all the way to penalty kicks looking to advance to the Sweet 16 for the second time in program history, but the Cavaliers pulled it out to move on to the next round after hitting four PKs to Tech's two.
"They're top-10 in the country in goals scored, and to shut them out and not get the win is a tough pill to swallow," said head coach Tom Stone.
The match began quickly, as both teams came out and set a fast pace of play that did not slow down throughout the entire 110 minutes. The Cavaliers outshot Tech in the first half, 5-4, but it was Tech whose shots were the scariest. On two occasions, forwards Jade King and Kirsten Davis both found themselves with open field between them and Virginia keeper Ivory Laurel. On King's try, though, Laurel came out of net to block the shot. Davis' was more controversial, as she was dragged down from behind just outside of the 18-yard box and advantage was given despite the ball skipping away into empty space with no Red Raider near it.
After halftime, the Red Raider defense was called upon to handle a massive challenge as Virginia threw everything at Tech, getting off 10 shots and taking seven corners in the second half. Despite this surge of Cavalier offense, the Red Raiders remained poised and fended off each opposing attack and put together dangerous counterattacks. Tech goalkeeper Marissa Zucchetto saved the day several times in the winding 5 minutes of regulation, the most notable instance occurring when she tipped a hard 20-yard shot up over the cross bar with just two minutes on the clock.
Tech's fitness came through in both overtime periods, as the Red Raiders kept the Cavaliers on their heels and rattled off three shots while holding the pod's three-seed to just one in the 20 minutes of bonus soccer. Still with nothing to show for either team, the two squads' seasons would come down to penalty kicks.
To begin the best-of-five set, Virginia recorded a make while Ally Griffin's PK was saved by Laurel. Zucchetto brought Tech right back into it with a save of her own, but Demi Koulizakis missed her opportunity wide left. Despite ensuing makes by Zucchetto and Wickenheiser, the Cavaliers matched Tech to continue their season.
With penalty kicks being so unpredictable, the missed opportunities in regulation and overtime were left to reflect on. To Stone, it is tough to see the team lose despite being in the game for all 110 minutes.
"We capitalized twice – once on King's breakaway and the other on Kirsten's where she got fouled. Those two opportunities, I think, would've given us the lead," he said. "With the way we've defended all year I think we would've held on to it.
Friday's loss marked the last collegiate game for six of the last nine remaining members of the program's first-ever Big 12 Championship team as they prepare to graduate. The standout class, which amassed 46 wins in their time in Lubbock, is special to head coach Tom Stone.
"They're one of the most sure and grounded senior classes we've ever had," he said. "In addition to being great players, they're just great women. They just completely fit the bill of a student-athlete. They completely drove our team this year and our program is better for them having been here."
While they may not play in the Scarlet & Black again, Tech's six departing seniors have left an indelible mark on the seven starters and numerous off-the-bench weapons the Red Raiders are set to return next year.
Senior and co-captain Carly Wickenheiser, who leaves Tech with more appearances than anyone on the active roster at 83, expressed her excitement for the team that will be taking the field next fall.
"Just because these seniors are leaving, that feeling and that desire is not going to leave with us," she said. "With the result tonight, I think they will realize that they can get more. The team that's going to come back next year is going to be gritty and they are going to be a force that everyone is going to have to deal with. I'm really excited to watch that next year."