Women's soccer hits the road
Brian, Ratcliffe spearhead offense in ACC tilts against BC, Pitt, Duke
The No. 2 Virginia women’s soccer team has had a perfect season so far, overpowering seven straight opponents. But all those games have been at home, and now the Cavaliers must play three consecutive ACC games on the road.
Virginia breezed through its first conference action Thursday, topping Syracuse 3-0, upping their scoring margin to 28-3 in seven games. Junior midfielder Morgan Brian has been crucial, tallying five goals and seven assists, and sophomore forward Brittany Ratcliffe has scored six goals this season despite not starting any games. The team is focusing on translating that home success to road contests against Boston College, Pittsburgh and No. 15 Duke.
“Our out-of-conference games were good games, but the ACC is a whole other level,” Ratcliffe said. “We’re not going to be at Klöckner for the first time so it’s definitely going to a be a new atmosphere that we’ll have to get used to.”
Fortunately for Virginia, playing a game on the road will not be a completely new experience. The Cavaliers played in an exhibition against Illinois Aug. 16 in Maple City, Michigan, winning 3-0.
But exhibition matches, while useful in their own right, do little to mimic the high-intensity atmosphere of conference matches in the competitive ACC.
“It’s going to be difficult,” coach Steve Swanson said. “Any of these games, whether you play home or away in the ACC, they’re going to be really competitive.”
Virginia enters this stretch with momentum, though. The Cavaliers have won each game by at least two goals, have scored at least three goals in every game and have not allowed a goal in their last four. The team’s primary concern is adapting to their upcoming foreign environments.
“We’re going to a lot of far away places, so traveling is going to be a huge factor in it,” Ratcliffe said.
The Cavaliers will have to adjust accordingly to cement their status as one of the top teams in the nation, but the coaching staff is looking to forward to seeing what the team can do away from Charlottesville.
“I think we need to get on the road now and see what it’s like being in a little different atmosphere,” Swanson said.
Last year, Virginia won three out of five ACC regular season games on the road, but they played Boston College and Duke at home and never faced new ACC member Pittsburgh. All three teams have winning records this season, and should provide good experience for Virginia with top-10 road matches against No. 7 Wake Forest and No. 1 North Carolina still looming on the schedule.
“It’s a good test for us at this point in time,” Swanson said.