Cavs host Blackbirds
Long Island comes to Klöckner to open NCAA tourney
The No. 8 Virginia women's soccer team takes on Long Island tonight in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament. After losing to Florida State in the ACC semifinals, the Cavaliers (14-4-2) received a No. 2 seed in the tournament for the third time in the past four years.
The matchup will be the first-ever game between the two schools. Long Island (12-7-1) has only faced one other ACC team in program history, losing in a 6-0 romp to Maryland in 1999. The Cavaliers aren't taking the game against the Northeast Conference champions lightly, however.
"They're good enough to be in the tournament," coach Steve Swanson said. "They won their [conference] tournament. It's the only game that we're focusing on right now. We have to give them our utmost attention and the best thing that we can do is to respect them and play as hard as we possibly can."
The game will be the first non-conference game for Virginia since an early September matchup against Penn State. But for a team that went 6-1-1 in their non-conference schedule, the Cavaliers will be eager for a change of pace.
"It will definitely be a little different," sophomore defender Molly Menchel said. "For the past couple weeks, we've been playing only ACC games. Not being familiar with who we're going to play is going to be a good challenge for us."
This is the 18th consecutive appearance for Virginia in the NCAA Tournament - only North Carolina and Notre Dame have longer active streaks. In last year's tournament as a two seed, the Cavaliers advanced past both Lehigh and South Carolina, before being beaten by Ohio State in the third round.
"At the end of the day, if you want to win [the national championship], you're going to play six games and you have to win all six of those games," Swanson said. "It doesn't really matter about the seeds or anything like that. The bottom line is that we're in [the tournament]. I like this team, I like the way we are playing, and I like the fact that we're at home."
Out of its 18 consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances, Virginia has had a home matchup in 14 of them. The Cavaliers have fared well in those games, going 16-10-3. This season, Virginia has taken advantage of its Klockner appearances, going a spectacular 12-1-1 when playing at home.
"[Home field advantage] honestly means everything," senior defender Amanda Fancher said. "We start the preseason saying that every game counts for it. I mean who doesn't want to play at Klöckner? The atmosphere is perfect."
In Swanson's 11 seasons coaching at Virginia, he has never taken the team beyond the quarterfinals of the NCAA Tournament, which the Cavaliers reached in 2001 and 2005. Seven of his seasons have ended in the third round, including his past five. But Swanson believes that his team can advance further this year.
"I think this team can do anything that they set their minds to," Swanson said. "This team has proven in the hardest conference in the country that they can compete with anybody. I'll tell you this: I wouldn't want to be coaching any other team than this one."
Kickoff at Klöckner Stadium is slated for 7 p.m. tonight.