No. 17 Virginia battles NC State for first time all season
Cavaliers host Wolfpack in first round of ACC Tournament
No. 17 Virginia men’s soccer hosts NC State in the first round of the ACC Tournament Wednesday. After ending the season on a nine-match unbeaten streak, the Cavaliers (9-2-5, 3-2-3 ACC) head into the postseason looking for another deep run in the NCAA Tournament.
Before they fight for another NCAA championship, however, they will have to plow through the conference tournament, and stay focused against a group that contains a staggering eight top 25 teams in the nation. First on the schedule is the Wolfpack (5-11, 1-7 ACC). It will be the first matchup for the Virginia against NC State this season.
Friday night’s victory against Duke secured Virginia a home match in the opening round of the ACC Tournament. It was an important win for a team that has not lost at home once this season.
Every postseason game raises the stakes for a team. Sophomore defender Sergi Nus discussed the importance of home field advantage to begin Virginia’s 2016 postseason run.
“I think it is essential,” Nus said. “Playing in Klöckner we didn’t lose a game, and in general we feel very comfortable. The size is incredible for our soccer style, and I think it is a huge advantage for us.”
The ability to stay at home and avoid traveling gives more rest to a team that has played in six overtime matches this season. Virginia is no stranger to extra time and close games — both a good and bad sign for a team entering the postseason. The Cavaliers have gained maturity and poise with their close wins and tough defense this season, but also struggle to put teams away at times. With both tournaments single elimination, Nus and the Cavaliers won’t overlook any team.
“NC [State] is an ACC team, and we don’t expect anything less than a good team with talented players,” Nus said. “It will not be an easy game, but we did not play in an easy game all year. We are ready to face any team from all over the country, and we are going to show that we are not afraid.”
Expectations are high in Charlottesville. The men’s soccer team has not lost a match since Sept. 24, and since then has defeated two teams ranked higher than the Cavaliers. However, the regular season is in the past, and as the postseason inches closer, the intensity grows and the margin for error shrinks.
Sophomore midfielder Daniel Barir discussed the first postseason match for the Cavaliers.
“I think we are ready,” Barir said. “It has been a good regular season with some ups and downs, but we are coming in with nine straight undefeated games and are gelling with the new playing system.”
Barir also shared some of his expectations for the NC State matchup.
“We know they have shown up in some big games, and they are a team that can mix it up a little bit,” Barir said. “We are prepared for a fight because ACC games are never easy. I expect us to be on our A-game.”
Stifling defense has pushed the Cavaliers into this postseason position, and it will have to continue tonight against a desperate Wolfpack team in a must-win situation to extend its season. Considering other ACC games this season, this should be a close, low-scoring matchup for the Cavaliers, since they have not beaten an ACC team by more than one goal in their nine-match unbeaten streak.
The regular season finished on a high note, but Virginia will have to continue its momentum into playoff play in order to avoid a disappointing end to an exciting season.
Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday at Klöckner Stadium.