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Women to play Classic

Scorching squad hopes to maintain momentum against George Mason, JMU

Riding two weeks of strong play, the No. 7 Virginia women’s soccer team comes home this weekend for a duo of home matches against in-state rivals George Mason and James Madison at the Virginia Nike Soccer Classic. For the Cavaliers, the weekend is an opportunity to gain momentum before conference play begins next week.

“I want to see us continuing to improve,” assistant coach Ron Raab said. “That’s the biggest thing from game to game and from week to week: Are we getting better?”

Virginia (5-1-0, 0-0-0 ACC) returns to Charlottesville after an impressive weekend at the Longhorn invitational in Austin, Texas. Paced by senior attacker Caroline Miller and an explosive offense, the Cavaliers topped Texas 3-0 and SMU 2-1 to extend their winning streak to five games. Miller scored two of the team’s five goals during the weekend for a total of three on the season. Virginia posted an 18-10 shot-on-goal advantage and a 14-2 corner kick advantage in the two games.

Although the team has shown good offensive cohesion, the coaching staff sees room for improvement in finishing opportunities.

“I think we’ve got to keep working hard,” Raab said. “That’s the theme we’ve been stressing since the preseason, and obviously it’s been paying dividends in terms of the progress we’ve made as a team.”

Up first for Virginia is a Friday meeting with George Mason (3-3-0, 0-0-0 CAA). George Mason comes into the game looking to find consistency after an uneven start to the season. A 3-1 win Tuesday against Howard snapped a two-game losing streak for the Patriots, including a 3-1 home loss to Maryland.

The team has certainly been creating chances, with the second-highest amount of shots and shots per game in its conference. It has also only suffered one shut-out so far this season. With five goals and three assists already, senior forward Tiana Kallenberger has become the focal point of the Patriots’ attack.

In the weekend finale Sunday, the Cavaliers host James Madison (2-2-0, 0-0-0 CAA), another team struggling with inconsistency. The Dukes are coming off a tough 2-1 loss at Penn last weekend and have not managed to string together consecutive wins this season.

Offensive finishing has plagued James Madison. No player has scored more than one goal in the team’s five games so far, though the team boasts the most shots per game in its conference. The Dukes’ defense, however, has been sturdy, allowing just four goals in four games.

For Virginia, these two games are its last two opportunities to improve before the team enters ACC play. A big matchup with 20-time national champion North Carolina looms next weekend. Complacency is something the team cannot afford, and the team’s focus is squarely on improving on this season’s already-sterling play.

“I think we just need to keep playing quick, playing together, and doing all the things we’ve been doing, and just keep up the intensity and the focus,” Miller said. “That will translate … into ACC play.”

Friday’s game kicks off at 5 p.m. at Klöckner, and Sunday’s game kicks off at 2:30 p.m. Richmond will also participate in the Classic but will face only George Mason and James Madison.