No. 4 women's soccer enters ACC play undefeated
Reigning ACC champs face stiff competition in search of title defense
The No. 4 Virginia women’s soccer team could not have opened the season any better. In starting the season undefeated, the Cavaliers tallied 25 total goals while only allowing three, as they dominated all six non-conference opponents they faced. Virginia has already defeated two teams that were ranked in the top 10 in then-No. 9 Santa Clara and then-No. 7 Penn State, by scores of 4-0 and 5-1, respectively.
“I think our team’s start has been great,” junior midfielder Morgan Brian said. “We’re obviously undefeated so far, and I think that is. . . a great confidence booster.”
Despite the team’s early success, there is plenty of work left to do as the team’s remaining 13 games are all conference games in the always-harrowing ACC. The Cavaliers will have to face two teams that are currently ranked ahead of them in No. 1 North Carolina and No. 2 Florida State in ACC play. Both opponents have tallied victories against other ranked teams this season and remain undefeated thus far. The Tar Heels are the reigning NCAA Champions, while the Seminoles were the ACC’s top team in the 2012 regular season and reached the NCAA Tournament semifinals.
“I think that we have definitely gotten good games in and gotten prepared for the ACC,” sophomore forward Makenzy Doniak said. “It’s such a tough conference, so we’re getting ready and know what we have to work on in practice.”
Last season, Virginia tied North Carolina 2-2 in a regular season home game, and beat the Tar Heels in Chapel Hill, N.C. in the ACC Tournament’s first round. The teams’ regular season showdown this year will also take place in Chapel Hill, where the Cavaliers will look to build on last year’s success against the Tar Heels. It could be a pivotal game for Virginia and is an opportunity to show that the squad is undeniably one of the best teams in the nation.
The Cavaliers get to face Florida State at home this season in their second-to-last regular season match. If both teams continue to play well, the game could have significant implications for the regular season conference standings, and thus seeding for the conference tournament. Virginia fell to the Seminoles on the road in the regular season in 2012, but exacted revenge by defeating them in the ACC Tournament.
Other currently ranked ACC teams that Virginia will face include No. 7 Wake Forest, No. 8 Notre Dame, No. 12 Duke and No. 16 Maryland. Though the Cavaliers have yet to play an official away game, a daunting six of their ACC games are on the road.
Virginia has reason to be confident — it won the 2012 ACC Championship and advanced to the Round of 16 in last year’s NCAA Tournament. The Cavaliers are led this season by Brian, who has already posted five goals and five assists. Brian even made an appearance for the United States Women’s National Team Sep. 3 — her second of her career — scoring a goal after entering the game as a substitute.
Sophomore forward Brittany Ratcliffe has also contributed five goals this season, and Doniak has scored four goals and recorded three assists. Though ACC competition is sure to be fierce in 2013, the Cavalier players are unfazed.
“One of our short-term goals is to defend that title, the ACC Championship,” Brian said. “But we have got to take it one game at a time and I think if we keep playing soccer the way that we’re playing, I think everything else will take care of itself.”
Coming off of a 3-0 win against Seton Hall, which featured two goals and an assist from Brian, Virginia begins ACC play Thursday at 7 p.m. in Charlottesville against Syracuse, which enters with a 4-2 record after losing 1-0 to Connecticut Sunday.