Squad aims for 3-0 start
Familiar in-state foe seeks to quell confident Cavaliers’ offensive firepower
The No. 10 Virginia women's soccer team looks to build off Sunday's six-goal rout of Richmond tomorrow as it welcomes in-state foe Liberty to Klöckner Stadium.
Tomorrow night's game marks the season-opening match for the Flames, who were recently picked to finish fifth in the Big South by the conference's coaches. Friday, the Cavaliers (2-0) edged 13th-ranked West Virginia 2-1 before demolishing Richmond Sunday night 6-0.
The Cavaliers hope to see a repeat of last weekend's offensive outpouring against Liberty. The Cavaliers and the Flames have met during each of the last eight seasons with each matchup resulting in a victory for the Cavaliers. Liberty has never managed to score a goal against Virginia through all eight meetings.
Although past history may indicate a favorable outcome for Virginia, the Cavaliers will not take anything for granted, especially on their home turf.
"Our big team goal is to not lose at home," senior goalkeeper Chantel Jones said. "We had that goal for the whole year no matter if it's ACC or out of conference, it's a good team or a not-so-good team. We just don't lose at home."
The Cavaliers will look to their reliable keeper to help them secure a win against the Flames, who return both of their top-two scorers from a season ago. Jones, who stymied the Richmond attack last Sunday, currently remains one shutout away from tying the ACC record for shutouts set by North Carolina goalkeeper Aly Winget with 35 shutdown performances. The Virginia defensive anchor was also named to the Hermann Trophy watch list - a list of 42 players who are expected to compete for recognition as the nation's top soccer player - prior to the start of the 2011 campaign.
"It feels good, [but] I don't want to think about the [Hermann Trophy] too much because I really only care about what our team does," Jones said. "I wouldn't be there without them. My defenders have saved me a lot of times. They get me shutouts and good records."
Although Jones does not wish to think too far into the future, she and her Virginia teammates hope to use tomorrow's matchup - and their next five home matches - to prepare for another grueling season of ACC play. The Cavaliers, who will not compete against a conference rival until Sept. 15, were picked to finish fourth in the ACC and are looking to hone their skills before facing the likes of North Carolina, Boston College and Florida State.
"The league has been very competitive for the last seven years or so," coach Steve Swanson said. "We know that there's a long season ahead and we know that the competition will only get tougher and tougher as we move into the ACC schedule. We're excited about that."
Until then, Swanson, who has the highest winning percentage in program history, will use non-conference bouts to assess the talent and preparation of this year's incoming freshman class. The group, which consists of six new faces, features midfielder Morgan Brian - the 2011 Gatorade National High School Female Athlete of the Year. Brian, who notched 71 goals and 30 assists during her senior year in high school, joins the squad as the No. 1 recruit according to TopDrawerSoccer.com.
"Every single one [of the freshmen] could be a starter on our team," Jones said. "They work hard in practice ... contribute on the field ... score goals, and they're really competitive. They came in wanting to win a championship now - not in the next four years. That really sets a good example for all of us."
Brian, who scored the Cavaliers' first goal of the season against the Mountaineers, echoed Jones' sentiments about the drive and determination of her fellow freshman teammates in working toward propelling the team to new heights.
"The next [six] games, we just want to play our game and play possession [soccer,]" Brian said. "It's at our home and one of our goals is to win all of our home games. We want to keep playing and just win them all."
Kickoff for tomorrow night's game is slated for 7 p.m.