Women host No. 17 Wake, look to overcome last weekend's mixed results
After splitting games against two ACC opponents last weekend, the No. 7 Virginia women’s soccer team faces another challenging conference game Friday evening when it hosts No. 17 Wake Forest at Klöckner Stadium.
The Cavaliers (10-2-1, 3-1-1 ACC) had their 10-game unbeaten streak snapped last Thursday in a 3-1 loss to ACC-leading Maryland. The squad went on to defeat then-No. 5 Duke 1-0 Sunday. The Cavaliers and coach Steve Swanson are looking to learn some much-needed lessons from last weekend’s performance.
“The bad news is there are mistakes, but the good news is that we can correct them,” Swanson said. “I think it was good to get a win against a quality team. You can talk about getting confidence in different ways, but the best way to get confidence is to play well against a good team.”
One takeaway from the weekend is that Virginia excels when enjoying most of the possession. The Cavaliers controlled the ball well against Duke, which let them successfully engineer a counterattack in the 88th minute that led to freshman forward Makenzy Doniak’s game-winning goal.
“I think we’ve just been working with just keeping the ball,” junior defender Morgan Stith said. “If we can keep possessing the ball, and keep a lot of movement off the ball, and just keep really being like a unit, it’ll be good for us.”
Virginia has much to prepare for before Saturday’s game, but without a game this Thursday the Cavaliers have a full week of practices. Though this extended absence from competition could disrupt the team’s rhythm, the one-game week should enable the Cavaliers to fire on all cylinders Friday evening.
“These games are very competitive games, and they’re not only physically taxing, they’re emotional,” Swanson said. “So to get a little more time will be good for us, to get back on the training ground will be good for us.”
By shutting out offensive juggernaut Duke, the Virginia defense demonstrated a resolve it will need against surging Wake Forest (9-3-1, 3-2-0 ACC). Although the Demon Deacons rank only eighth in the ACC in points, they are coming off a decisive 4-0 win against Clemson and, before that, a 2-1 loss to Maryland in which they nonetheless outshot the Terrapins 18-5. Embodied by the play of redshirt junior midfielder Ally Berry, who has notched two goals and five assists so far this season, Wake Forest’s offense thrives on proficient ball movement, as evidenced by the 21 assists it has produced for the team’s 20 total goals.
It is defense, however, where the Demon Deacons truly shine. With junior goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe anchoring the back line, Wake Forest has yielded just 0.54 goals per game this season, good for second in the league behind Florida State (0.27). Virginia will depend on top scorers Doniak and senior forward Caroline Miller to create enough scoring opportunities to penetrate the daunting Deacons’ defense.
Swanson expressed confidence in his players’ ability to accomplish what needs to be done to come out with a win Friday evening.
“Wake’s a good team, just like Duke,” Swanson said. “It’s going to be a similar type of game, I imagine. Can we learn from this, can we get a little bit better at handling pressure, can we move the ball better, and will that translate in better chances and more chances? I think for all those things, that answer is yes.”