The No. 10 Virginia women’s soccer team hits the road today for the first time this season to compete at the Longhorn Invitational in Austin, Tex. Virginia departs on a high note after a strong showing in its season-opening four-game homestand.
First up for the Cavaliers are the host Texas Longhorns Friday, followed by a Sunday matchup with Southern Methodist University.
Virginia (3-1-0, 0-0-0 ACC) enters the Texas match riding a three-game shutout streak, thanks to strong defense and ball possession. In its last outing, against UNC-Wilmington last Sunday, the team allowed only one shot on goal and conceded just two corner kicks.
The Cavaliers have built their success on a tenacious back line that has rebounded from a disappointing 3-1 loss to No. 6 Penn State in the opener. In the Cavaliers’ three wins, no opponent has managed more than two shots on goal. The impressive numbers are due in part to Virginia discovering that its offense is its best defense.
“I would say that the biggest thing overall is we’ve done a better job of limiting our unforced errors and keeping possession,” said assistant head coach Ron Raab. “When we have the ball, we’re a much more effective team, and it obviously limits the other team’s opportunities.”
For the Cavaliers increased possession also means increased scoring chances. The team has racked up 10 goals in the last three games combined. Against UNC-Wilmington Virginia managed 16 shots on goal. Despite scoring twice, the Cavaliers know finishing on goal at a higher rate is a key step if they are to embark on the successful run they envision.
“In our first game against Penn State, I felt like we created a number of chances but didn’t do a good job of finishing them,” Raab said. “That has changed here in the last few games, and has obviously made a good impact and changed the results for us.”
Friday, the Cavaliers encounter Texas (2-2-0, 0-0-0 Big 12), which comes into the weekend off a redeeming win against Toledo. The Longhorns had previously dropped two consecutive 1-0 results against Arkansas and N.C. State, and they will look to keep their offense moving against Virginia. Leading the team on attack is senior midfielder Kristin Cummins, whose three goals and one assist put her second in the Big 12 in points. At the other end of the pitch, however, Texas’ defense has the fewest saves and the lowest save percentage in the conference.
Sunday’s affair pits Virginia against SMU (2-1-0, 0-0-0 C-USA). After a close 1-0 opening loss to San Diego State, the Mustangs have had two strong performances with a 2-1 win against Oral Roberts and a 4-0 romp against Arkansas. Senior forward Kenzie Scovill leads the team in scoring with three goals in as many games, good enough for third in Conference-USA.
With the Cavaliers leaving Charlottesville for the first time this season, their preparation for this weekend will be different, but the players are confident they can adjust.
“Before the game, it’s all the same,” said junior defender Molly Menchel . But it’s just making sure since we’re flying, just to keep hydrated and stay healthy. As fun as it is to go on a road trip with your team, just keep in mind that we are going to play a game.”