The University of Miami soccer team upset No. 25 Virginia Tech 2-1 in a double overtime thriller and clinched an ACC tournament berth at Cobb Stadium Sunday afternoon.
“I am just so proud of this group,” Head Coach Mary-Frances Monroe said. “We’ve been working so hard. I’m just ecstatic for our seniors. When I was hired, they were our freshmen. From not knowing their first name and what position they played when I first got here, to making it a goal to make it to the ACC tournament, I’m just so proud of them. They did everything in their power to make that happen today.”
Senior forward Gracie Lachowecki connected for the golden goal 63 seconds into the second frame of overtime, clinching the Canes’ first ACC tournament berth since 2012.
“I think the goal today was to make it to the ACC Tournament,” Lachowecki said. “That’s been the goal for four years now. We were finally in control today and had it. My last game on this field and did whatever I could for this team.”
The Hurricanes (10-7-0, 5-4-0 ACC) and Hokies (10-5-3, 2-4-3 ACC) traded chances in the first half, but the goalkeeping of redshirt sophomore Phallon Tullis-Joyce and Virginia Tech keeper Blayne Fink kept each side scoreless heading into the break.
Coming out of the intermission, Virginia Tech struck first in the 50th minute when forward/midfielder Bria Dixon played the ball just in front of the goal line, and forward Murielle Tiernan put it in the back of the net to give the Hokies a 1-0 lead.
In the 83rd minute, Miami came inches away from leveling the match when sophomore forward Jamie Brunworth flew in the air for an acrobatic shot that clanged off the post.
Just two short minutes later, junior forward/midfielder Grace Rapp played the ball to Lachowecki, who connected with her left foot and hit twine for the equalizer for her 10th goal of the season.
“We were down one goal and we always count on Gracie – that she’s going to find a way to score,” Monroe said. “I knew, [with her]being a senior and it being her last regular season home game that she wasn’t going to take the 1-0 loss. She put it on her shoulders and she got the equalizer.”
With the goal, Lachowecki became the first player in program history to register double-digit tallies in multiple seasons. She moved into sole possession of third place on Miami’s all-time scoring list with 23 career goals.
Miami and Virginia Tech remained knotted up through the end of regulation and the first session of extra time.
At the start of the second frame of overtime, the Canes wasted little time when freshman midfielder Lauren Markwith played the ball to senior defender Emily Auld, who then crossed the ball into the box. Lachowecki emphatically finished the play for the score in the 102nd minute. The walk-off goal led to a joyous celebration for the Hurricanes as they rushed the field in jubilation.
“It is now time to win and advance,” Lachowecki said. “Time to prove everyone wrong. We were picked to finish last in the ACC and now we have finished in the top eight, and we’re not done yet.”
Miami is now guaranteed a top seven spot in the upcoming postseason tournament for its fifth appearance since joining the conference in 2004.
“We talked about it in preseason actually,” Monroe said. “I said, ‘There are a lot of people who don’t have respect for this group. What better way to [show what we can do]than to put all the pieces together and perform this season.’ It took every single one of our players to make that happen. From players who play 90 minutes, to players who don’t play at all, they have to commit themselves every day to train and keep the environment so high and that’s what we were able to do, collectively as a group. We just made it our goal to get into the ACC tournament.”
The Hurricanes will look to upset another ranked team this season when they visit the No. 14-ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish at 7 p.m. on Thursday for their final regular season contest of the year.