Squad gears up to renew rivalry
Cavaliers to host Hokies in contest featuring ACC’s top two scoring attacks
The No. 8 Virginia women's soccer team will participate in its second-to-last regular season game of the season tonight against in-state foe and fierce rival Virginia Tech. The Cavaliers (11-3-2, 5-2-1 ACC) and the Hokies (11-4-1, 3-3-1 ACC) both enter tonight's matchup riding a three-game winning streak and rank as the top two scoring squads in the conference with 41 and 37 goals, respectively.
Should the Cavaliers win, they could put themselves in better position for earning the top seed in the approaching conference tournament. After dominating lowly Clemson Sunday afternoon, Virginia moved into a tie for first place in the ACC with perennial powers Duke and North Carolina, and propelled slightly ahead of Wake Forest. Standings have become even more important this year as recent changes in the ACC Tournament schedule allow only the top four schools to host first-round matchups.
"It's a little early to look at postseason, but just looking at that first game, now that it's going to be at a home site, we now have a lot to play for these next two games," Virginia coach Steve Swanson said. "We obviously are very comfortable in Klöckner. We have great fans here. They're a big part of our team and just from that standpoint we want to be here. In some ways, we control our own destiny. We just have to keep winning."
Historically, the Cavaliers have dominated the rivalry with Virginia Tech, owning the overall head-to-head record with a 13-2-1 showing. During those 16 games, the Hokies only tallied a measly seven goals. Last year's matchup saw much of the same dominance as Virginia won 3-0 behind a solid outing by then-freshman forward Gloria Douglas, who contributed a goal and an assist.
But fatigue may become a factor for the Cavaliers this season as four of their six grueling ACC matchups have gone to overtime. Despite the additional play time, the Cavaliers have found success in the extra minutes going 3-0-1 and tallied wins against top-10 teams like North Carolina and Florida State. The three overtime wins are the most such victories for Virginia since 2001.
"It's been a tough schedule and [fatigue] is one thing that all ACC teams have to deal with," Swanson said. "You need to be careful that you're coming in rested to these games. We have this willingness and want to get better, but you need to balance that with getting rest coming into these games because our schedule in the ACC has been so difficult."
The squad only could squeeze in a couple practices to prepare for the Hokies in between Sunday's match and tonight's kick-off. Despite the shortened practice week, Virginia feels confident in its ability to string together a solid game plan in only four days.
"[We're feeling] pretty good," freshman midfielder Olivia Brannon said. "We still have all week to practice, get focused and get ready, but coming off a win is always a good confidence builder."
Virginia Tech boasts one of the top scoring duos in the ACC with junior midfielder Kelly Conheeney and redshirt sophomore forward Shannon Mayrose, who enter the game with nine and eight goals, respectively. In addition, tonight marks the third time this year that Virginia will appear on national television - an added pressure for the streaking squad.
"We're really excited," freshman midfielder Morgan Brian said. "Anytime it's Virginia Tech versus Virginia, it's going to be a good game. It's going to be on TV, so we're hoping to get a good crowd and play some good soccer."
Adding to the excitement, Becky Sauerbrunn and Lori Lindsey, U.S. National Team players and Virginia women's soccer alumnae, will be recognized during the game. Kick-off is slated for 7 p.m.