Virginia to open NCAA Tournament play with home match against Monmouth
Cavaliers return to field after two-week break
After almost two weeks of idle time, the Virginia women’s soccer team is ready to get back on the field. Virginia was knocked out earlier than they had hoped in the ACC championship quarterfinals when they had to travel on the road against a hot North Carolina team. On the bright side, the Cavaliers have used this extra time to regroup and prep for the NCAA Tournament.
Virginia (13-4-2) will enter the tournament as one of the NCAA’s four No. 3 seeds and is set to host a first round matchup against Monmouth (14-4-2) at 7 p.m. Friday.
This match will mark Virginia’s 22nd-consecutive appearance in the NCAA Tournament and the program’s 29th overall. It will also be the 19th time in the past 23 years that Virginia will host its opening match.
Playing at home has been a significant advantage for the Cavaliers this season, as the team is undefeated and boasts a 10-0-1 record at Klöckner Stadium.
Senior defender Kristen McNabb said she is itching to get back on the field in front of the home crowd for one last time.
“We’re excited to be playing at home,” McNabb said. “Anytime we make the NCAA Tournament it’s special. We’re excited to have one more home game and excited for the opportunity to be at home. We love playing at Klöckner because we’re comfortable here and we’ve played our best games there this year. Hopefully we continue that and end on a good note for the fans.”
Monmouth is a team the Cavaliers are favored to defeat, especially considering the home-field advantage, but in the NCAA Tournament no team can be taken lightly. Last year, Virginia made it to the Elite Eight before falling to Rutgers in penalty kicks.
This year, Virginia absolutely has the potential to win it all, but with so many good teams around the league, the Cavaliers really need to put everything together and play their best down the stretch.
The first order of business is Monmouth and sophomore defender Brianna Westrup wants to avoid looking forward until they complete the task at hand.
“It’s awesome to be able to play at home and get our crowd support,” Westrup said. “We’re trying to focus on this game against Monmouth and not look ahead at anything. We need to take things as they come. We’ve been preparing and getting rested. We’ve had two weeks off and are itching to get back on the field.”
Looking at the two teams, Monmouth claimed the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Championship this season by going 9-0-1 in conference play and leaning heavily on a stout defense.
The Cavaliers will need to work their hardest to break down Monmouth’s back line that will likely hold strong for much of the game.
Senior midfielder Alexis Shaffer, who was just named ACC Offensive Player of the Year and Midfielder of the year, will be key in pulling the strings from the midfield. Shaffer, along with four other All-ACC selections on the Cavalier roster will be integral to the team’s success going forward.
The NCAA Tournament is basically a new season. It’s win or go home and the Cavaliers are certainly not ready to go home in the first round. Monmouth is the first obstacle for the Cavaliers and they must focus on the task at hand.
The winner of Friday’s matchup will move on to play the winner of a first-round matchup between Bucknell and defending NCAA Champion Penn State Nov. 18.