No. 14 women face Hokies, hope to build momentum
Squad hopes frustrating loss to Florida State will spark late-season push
Following a stinging loss last weekend, the No. 14 Virginia women’s soccer team heads on the road to take on rival No. 25 Virginia Tech Sunday evening. With just two games left in the regular season, the Cavaliers are looking to build momentum for the ACC tournament and beyond.
Virginia (11-4-1, 4-3-1 ACC) endured one of its toughest games of the season Sunday against top-ranked Florida State in Tallahassee, losing 1-0 on a penalty kick in overtime.
“I thought it was a very competitive game,” coach Steve Swanson said. “You’ve got to put it in the past, and take what we can from the game. We have to take responsibility for the game.”
Against Florida State, Virginia was held to just 12 shots, fewer than in any other game this season and well below its average of nearly 18 shots per game, good for third in the ACC. The Cavaliers know they must focus on ball possession and open play, which allow them to move the ball and create scoring opportunities.
“I think we’ve shown that we can finish consistently throughout the season,” Swanson said. “I think what we need to do against quality teams is possess the ball enough and build it up enough to get quality chances in the game.”
A bright spot for the team Sunday was the defense, which kept a strong Seminole team in check for the entire game until the penalty kick. Despite two losses in the last four games, Virginia has not given up a goal in open play in as many matchups, with both losses coming as a result of set pieces. The Cavaliers are confident that if they can limit chances on free kicks, their defense will continue to stifle opponents.
“Our team defense was good [against Florida State],” Swanson said. “Our shape was a lot better than it had been even two weeks ago. We’re getting consistent performances defensively, which is great.”
The team now shifts its focus to this Sunday’s matchup against another tough ACC team. The Hokies (11-4-1, 2-4-1 ACC) got off to a blistering start this season, winning their first nine games of the season and at one point climbing to a No. 8 ranking. But ACC losses to powers North Carolina, Duke, Boston College and Florida State have Virginia Tech now sitting in the bottom half of the conference.
Leading Virginia Tech on offense with seven goals is redshirt junior forward Shannon Mayrose, who will try to spark a stagnant attack that has mustered just one goal in the last three games.
As the season nears its end, the Virginia players aim to rebound from Sunday and put on a strong performance against their in-state rival.
“I think we’re confident,” senior forward Erica Hollenberg said. “Obviously, you need to be confident going into games. Regardless of the results that come, as long as we play well going into the ACC tournament, I think we’ll be in a good position.”