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No. 5 women's squad travels to Clemson

Sizzling Miller, offense take nine-game streak to first conference road match; team eyes 10th victory

The No. 5 Virginia women’s soccer team heads to South Carolina this weekend for a Sunday matchup with ACC foe Clemson. Riding a nine-game unbeaten streak, the Cavaliers (8-1-1, 1-0-1 ACC) look to keep improving upon their already strong play.

Virginia’s offense has excelled lately. The Cavaliers scored two or more goals in each of their last nine games. Senior forward Caroline Miller scored four goals during the weekend, including both goals in Sunday’s draw against then-No. 6 North Carolina. Miller’s showing netted her the Disney Soccer/NSCAA Player of the Week award and moved her into the top 10 for career goals at Virginia.

“The thing about Caroline is that she’s a player who scores no matter the level of competition,” coach Steve Swanson said. “She scores in big games, and she’s always a threat when she’s out there.”

Miller’s offensive prowess has helped her fellow players make an impact as well.

“I don’t think she gets enough credit for creating goals for others as well,” Swanson said. “She’s been a consistent scorer for us these last three years, but we would like it that even if she doesn’t [score], that other people can score.”

Despite the offensive firepower the Cavaliers have displayed in recent weeks, the North Carolina game provided the team with a good sense of areas in which they could improve. The Tar Heels were able to take a halftime lead on a late first-half goal and later tie the game on another late goal in the second half.

“We saw a lot of good things,” junior midfielder Kate Norbo said. “At the same time, we saw a lot of things that we can work on. I think we had a few too many unforced turnovers in the game, and I think if we can cut down on those, we could have a lot more success.”

With the benefit of a full week of practice, the players see opportunity to improve before they face Clemson (7-3-2, 0-2-0 ACC) Sunday.

“I think the main thing that we’re trying to focus on, regardless of who we’re playing, is just playing our [style of play],” Norbo said. “Just not trying to play to somebody else’s game, but just moving the ball around.”

Offensive chances may be the key to success against the Tigers. Clemson has struggled in the ACC so far this season, suffering a brutal 5-1 loss to No. 11 Boston College last Thursday and a 4-1 loss to No. 17 Maryland Sunday. They have allowed 1.3 goals per game — second worst in the ACC this season — and will be tested sorely by a Cavalier attack averaging a conference-best 20.3 shots a game.

Clemson’s Liska Dobberstein represents the Tigers’ most dangerous threat in front of goal. She leads the team with four goals.

This weekend could be just the beginning for the Cavaliers as they look to pursue conference and national title aspirations, Swanson said.

“The exciting thing is that I can see the team getting better, and I think that’s the thing we’re going to emphasize, especially with this full week to train,” he said. “If we do that, the kind of caliber competition we’re going to play will help us get there.”

The Cavaliers and Tigers will square off at 1 p.m. Sunday at Clemson.