Tech (13-3-5) earned its first-ever trip to the quarterfinal round by out-shooting Old Dominion 10-8 and playing tough defense throughout the match, limiting the Monarchs to just one shot on goal.
"I'm very pleased with the entire game today, advancing to the next round against a good team, and also with the defensive maturity of our team," head coach Oliver Weiss said.
The Hokies scored the lone goal of the match in the first half when Georg Zehender dribbled to the right corner and delivered a cross to the front of the net and Nyarko scored the 30th goal of his career by connecting with his right foot on the pass for the goal. The Kumasi, Ghana native is now tied with Jason Entlich (1990-93) for fifth-place in career goals at Virginia Tech.
"That's a play we've practiced over and over again," Nyarko said. "When I saw the ball go over to the flag, I knew what run to make and [Zehender] found me with that ball. I was being heckled a little bit, but I just decided to go until the end of the play, and luckily, it went in."
Nyarko, a first-team All-ACC selection for the third consecutive season, has totaled six goals and 10 assists this season to lead the squad with 22 points. Tech is now 5-0-1 when Nyarko scores a goal this season. He stands fourth on the all-time school list with 84 points and ranks third in assists (24). Zehender dished out his ninth assist of the season, and now ranks second on the team with a total of 16 points in 21 matches.
"In the first half, we struggled with some things on the defensive point," Weiss said. "All the players who played in the second half made a great adjustment and really kept their poise and focus on our game plan, which was to at least limit Old Dominion's opportunities."
The Tech defense limited the Monarchs to just one shot on goal, which tied a season-low mark. The Hokies allowed only one shot on goal in shutouts of both VMI on Oct. 9, and NC State on Nov. 3.
Goalkeeper Markus Aigner only had to make one save in his fourth shutout victory of the season. Aigner improved his record to 8-2-5 since taking over starting duties on Sept. 25, which was also a 1-0 shutout victory for the Hokies, when he came up with three saves against Richmond.
Tech completed its home season with a 7-0-1 record at Tech Soccer Stadium, and is now 6-0-0 in day games.
Old Dominion (14-7-3) had two players register multiple shots in the match, A.J. Kulp and David Horst both attempted two apiece. Goalkeeper Evan Newton made four saves for the Monarchs.
The Hokies will play No. 3 seed Connecticut in an NCAA Championship Quarterfinal match at 1 p.m., next Saturday in Storrs, Conn.
"I'm very pleased with the entire game today, advancing to the next round against a good team, and also with the defensive maturity of our team. After some initial decisions in the first half that we struggled with a little bit on the defensive point, all the players who played in the second half made a great adjustment and really kept their poise and focus on our game plan, which was to at least limit Old Dominion's opportunities and don't give them free kicks. For the most part, we did that, so I'm very pleased. We look forward to the next round."
On if he thought the team could achieve this much success this season:
"Yes, because that's what we said in the first meeting. There were three goals on the board. We kept it very simple and one of them is still ahead of us. We knew on paper we had our best team together, whether or not that works out is the question. You know in sports, you can have unforeseen events such as injuries or chemistry issues. For the most part, we said, 'Let's not screw this up. This could be a very good year.' Like I said at the last win, that's something we want to reflect on after season. We're still in it, and we have to stay humble and modest and just say we're playing for the right to play another game. That's what we wanted to do today and we did it, so we get that extra game. All the glorification of these records really makes no sense when you're playing, so we try to keep our concentration to go into the next round."
On his team's strengths:
"I think it's the ability to lift their game during a particular period, whether it's a down goal against California, or if it was the middle of the second half, and we're struggling connecting passes and we got out of it. You do that by having guys who've been there before and have seen it and guys who actually can follow through and bring people along with leadership. And if you have that, I think you have a pretty mentally strong team. That's probably the biggest thing that we get through the good and bad parts and don't come out too hurt and have enough resiliency and attitude to come back. We have come back from games five or six times when we're down a goal. If you know the first goal's huge, now is the time [to get that goal]. We've made all kinds of improvements during the year, and it comes back to having great kids, good learners, and hard-nosed competitors."
On the game plan against Old Dominion:
"We just made the game plan focus on the defensive aspect. We played a 4-5-1, four defenders, five midfielders and one forward that illuminates that kind of behavior. Now, we still lose if you don't have the defensive action taking place. We made it our goal to do that, just like Old Dominion has done to other teams. In a playoff game, you really have to focus on not giving the other team a chance. When you do that, you stymie their enthusiasm and belief, and when that trickles down then it lifts ours. Yes, we should have finished the game with two or three goals today, but so be it. I'll take the 1-0 win."
Virginia Tech forward Patrick Nyarko
On his goal:
"That's a play we've practiced over and over again. When I saw the ball go over to the flag, I knew what run to make and Georg [Zehender] found me with that ball. I was being heckled a little bit, but I just decided to go until the end of the play, and luckily, it went in."
On if he thought the ball didn't go in at first:
"As soon as the ball hit the ground, I knew it was over the line, so there was no concern at all."
Virginia Tech midfielder Ben Nason
On the last few minutes of the game and trying to score again to give the team a cushion while also trying to preserve the 1-0 shutout:
"It definitely got tense a little bit toward the end, but I think we were really good about being compact. Everybody was getting back. In times like that, you just get behind the ball and try to counter a couple of times, which we did. We just didn't quite put the ball away. I think we overall did a pretty good job of defending there at the end. It was just a matter of not being able to put away one or two more finishes.
On what he's feeling right now going to the quarterfinals:
"For me, I've been here five years. It's unbelievable. Every year, it seems like things have gotten better and better. We have unbelievable players. It's just been an unbelievable ride, and I just hope it keeps going."
Old Dominion head coach Alan Dawson
"[This game] was fairly even and won by a special player. He was the difference maker today. It was a very competitive game, both teams fouled very hard. There were very few clear-cut challenges and a special goal by a special player, and that's what wins close games."
On Tech's defense:
"We struggled to get any combination to really work well together, and part of that is Virginia Tech playing very good defense. It was just one of those games where you're not going to get a lot of good looks at goals. If we had a look at a goal, we were going to take a chance."
On this season's team:
"The chemistry on this team was terrific. We accomplished some things. We won 14 games, the [Colonial Athletic Association] championship for the first time since 1991, which was very special, and we made the Sweet 16 for the second year in a row, but there's more to it than that. It was a special group of guys and that was what it was all about."
Old Dominion's Trevor Banks
On playing his final college game:
"It's really hard [to deal with] right now, because I felt like this year's team was so special, not just because of soccer but because we were such a tight-knit crew. This is the closest team I've ever been a part of so that's why it's pretty hard right now. It hasn't dawned on me now that tomorrow morning I'm going to wake up and I won't be able to go to practice or play anymore. It's been a heck of a year."
On playing Tech's defense:
"They threw a bunch of guys back there, but we still had a few chances and didn't connect. It was one of those games where we'll get a few chances, but not many, so you have to take advantage."
On Patrick Nyarko:
"He's one heck of a player. He changed the game. We were prepared for everything else. We tried to prepare for [Nyarko], it's just that he's one heck of a player."
On Tech's defenders:
"Their back line was definitely solid today. Any time we got the ball back, we had no time or space, at all. That's how it's going to be when you're this far in the tournament."
Old Dominion's A.J. Kulp
On prospects for next season:
"It's kind of hard to say right now. We have a solid core coming back next year. Hopefully, we can carry on the team chemistry that we had this season. It took us a long way. If we can come back with the same mentality we had this year, and bring it together to play the kind of soccer that we want to play, then we can have even more success than we had this season."