Virginia women's soccer gears for No. 1 FSU
Riding high after 1-0 victory against archrival North Carolina, women prepare for ACC semifinal
Fresh off a dramatic 1-0 victory against rival No. 8 North Carolina, the No. 10 Virginia women’s soccer team heads to Cary, N.C. for the ACC semifinals and a rematch with top seed and national No. 1 Florida State.
Sunday’s win against the Tar Heels was Virginia’s (14-4-1, 6-3-1 ACC) second win ever against its bitter rivals and the first in postseason play. The Cavaliers scored an 11th-minute goal from senior forward Caroline Miller and employed stifling defense the rest of the way to preserve the lead.
“It was like déjà vu,” said Miller, who also scored the lone goal in Virginia’s first victory against North Carolina last year. “It was incredible. I think it was just as good as last time, especially since this time it’s in the ACC tournament.”
The Cavaliers held the Tar Heels to four shots on goal. The squad hopes to maintain that level of defensive pressure for the rest of the postseason.
“We did a good job of solving their pressure, which is always one of the keys to the game,” coach Steve Swanson said. “They have a lot of very good athletes, and they come at you. I thought we did overall as good a job as we have [this year] in terms of controlling the game, keeping possession, and playing our strengths.”
Sticking to their style of play will be key for the Cavaliers as they collide with Florida State (16-2-0, 8-2-0 ACC), who dealt the squad one of its toughest losses of the season two weeks ago in Tallahassee. The Seminoles won 1-0 on a penalty kick in overtime. The Virginia players now look for revenge against a team that squeaked past them Oct. 14 and eliminated them 2-1 in the ACC semifinals last year.
“I think everyone is pumped up, especially since we lost to them in the ACC tournament last year,” Miller said. “I think that’s enough to fuel the fire, and everyone has been working really hard in practice getting ready for this game.”
Florida State seemed to be invincible early in the season, winning 14 games in a row and yielding an absurdly low three goals before dropping two of its last three regular season games to Boston College and Miami. The Seminoles came back, however, dropping Boston College 4-0 in the first round of the ACC tournament.
The loss against Florida State was the only time the Cavaliers have been shut out this season. Virginia mustered a season-low four shots on goal in the contest, much lower than the team’s 18 shots-per-game average, which ranks second in the conference.
“We had a very good game with them the first time, but it’ll be a challenging game, just like any game is in the ACC,” Swanson said. “They have a good defense, and we’ve got to do a better job of creating more quality chances than in the first time we played them.”
Since the Florida State loss, the team has been on an offensive tear, scoring 11 goals in just three games. Swanson said he hopes that momentum will be enough to push the Cavaliers closer to their second ACC title in team history.
“We’re learning every game, and we’re being more consistent, which is good,” Swanson said. “We’re going to have to be as consistent as possible in all 90 minutes of the game.”
A win in the semifinal would mean an ACC title matchup Sunday against either Wake Forest or Maryland, the teams responsible for Virginia’s other two conference losses this season. Swanson, despite the hype already building around the game, is keeping his message simple.
“Our motivation is to get better, and to win an ACC Championship,” he said.
The game against Florida State will be broadcast on ESPN3 5 p.m. Friday. The ACC title tilt will air on ESPNU 1 p.m. Sunday.