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Senior defender Brandon Clegg rests after the game ends with his team as they stretch. 

Through 78 minutes, JMU men’s soccer dueled with yet another No. 1 team. With every attack it absorbed, it countered with a chance of its own. Despite an inspiring performance that saw the Dukes take top-ranked Virginia to the brim, they couldn’t find the back of the net against in-state foe and fell 1-0. 

Virginia junior forward Irakoze Donasiyano received the ball 25 yards from goal, took a few touches and launched a shot that turned into the deciding effort. It was the first time JMU conceded against a ranked opponent this season and the first time the Dukes lost to an ACC opponent in two years. 

“We were in the match the entire game, there was a brilliant goal scored on us and we had our chances,” head coach Paul Zazenski said. “They buried their chance and we didn’t, and they’re walking away a winner.”

As it did against then-No. 1 Wake Forest, JMU gave the top-ranked Hoos a few scares in the first half. Two corners within the first two minutes showed the Dukes had the attacking tools to compete with Virginia, but the home side quickly found its feet and stifled most of the Dukes’ efforts. 

In the 21st minute, senior midfielder Manuel Ferriol got behind the U. Va defense but was immediately met by redshirt junior goalkeeper Colin Shutler. Shutler made five saves throughout the match.

While U. Va outshot the Dukes 7-2 in the first half, its best chance in the first stanza came in the 35th minute after sophomore forward Daniel Steedman danced behind the JMU backline and played it to the center of the penalty box. It met the foot of freshman forward Axel Gunnarsson, but the Swede couldn’t muster enough power to beat redshirt junior goalkeeper TJ Bush. 

Seven minutes later, freshman midfielder Clay Obara had the best chance of the half for JMU as the Virginia Beach, Virginia, native cut inside and tried to pick a corner, but Shutler made a sprawling save to keep it level. 

Virginia earned a free kick deep in JMU’s half with 7.3 seconds left in the first half, but the Dukes cleared it without trouble. Through 45 minutes, both teams couldn’t find the back of the net. 

“It’s hard because there are a lot of emotions in a game like tonight,” Zazenski said. “It’s a big match, and there are a lot of guys that wanted to get a result.” 

In the 66th minute, junior defender Tom Judge was played through on goal, but a last-ditch tackle prevented him from getting a shot off. Immediately, U. Va went on the counter-attack until the ball eventually found Donasiyano in the penalty area. Donasiyano’s effort got past Bush, but the shot rattled the crossbar. 

It didn’t take much longer for Virginia to find its breakthrough. After Bush punched a corner out of the box, Donasiyano got the ball 25 yards out from goal and took a few touches before launching a clinical shot that beat Bush, giving the Hoos a 1-0 lead in the 78th minute. 

Although JMU was able to put a couple more efforts on frame, none got past Shutler, and the Hoos avoided the upset. It was the second time in three matches the Dukes were defeated by a single goal. 

“You always have to learn from your losses,” Zazenski said. “Then also, at the same time, reset. It’s a contradicting statement, but you have to learn from it. [UNCW] is coming to town and we’ve got to focus on that game.”

JMU returns to CAA action Saturday as it hosts UNCW. The Seahawks sit at second place in the CAA with a record of 7-4-2 (4-0-1 CAA). Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at Sentara Park. 

Contact Noah Ziegler at breezesports@gmail.com. For more soccer coverage, follow the sports desk on Twitter @TheBreezeSports.

There comes a time where an athlete realizes their true potential. When I realized that I was never going to make a living on the court, I figured I’d make it on the sidelines. I hope to be able to attend and cover the World Cup and NCAA tournament.