Virginia travels south for weekend doubleheader

No. 3 Women's Soccer leaves home for first time this season, faces Alabama, Samford


The No. 3 Virginia women’s soccer team will make a trip south this weekend — starting with a matchup against SEC opponent Alabama Friday, the Cavaliers (3-0, 0-0) will finish off the trip Sunday with a game against Samford in Birmingham, Alabama.

The road trip will be the first of the season for Virginia, who opened the season with three games in Charlottesville. This weekend will also mark the Cavaliers’ second consecutive Friday-Sunday turnaround. With little time to rest their legs, players may find the climate change deep in the south to be a major factor in their fatigue.

Coach Steve Swanson, however, insists this is only a minor concern.

“You have to deal with different environments: hostile crowds, small fields, sometimes, weather — those are all parts of the game that you have to deal with,” Swanson said. “We’re not going to make any excuses.”

Virginia is off to a quick start after reaching the College Cup last season. The team has yet to allow a goal and has outscored opponents 12-0 in its first three wins. Still, there remains a general consensus the team could improve.

“Right now we’re scoring a lot of goals, but we’re leaving a lot out there that we haven’t done well right now,” senior midfielder Morgan Brian said. “It’s good that we’re not playing our best and still winning … but I think everyone in this program knows that there’s a lot we can get better at.”

The Cavaliers alleged slow start could be partially attributed to the team’s relative youth. Fifteen of the 24 players are underclassmen, including seven true freshmen.

“Half your team’s new, and trying to gel together as a team is really hard on the offensive side,” Swanson said. “I think we’re still getting used to one another and we’re still working on our style of play, where people are, where people need to be during certain situations, and trying to read the game from our perspective as a collective unit and that just takes time.”

Alabama (2-1-1, 0-0), on the other hand, has seen most of its successes thus far on the offensive end. The Crimson Tide have tallied 13 goals in four games, 10 of which came in the team’s two wins. The scoring has been well balanced, with six different players accounting for the 13 goals and no player scoring more than three.

“They’re pretty good — we have good leadership, and they’ve got good experience,” Swanson said.

Coming from a stronger conference than Virginia’s previous opponents, Alabama will offer the chance to play a tougher game before getting into ACC play. Currently, the Cavaliers have yet to play a team with a winning record, their opponents’ combined record coming in at 3-5-1.

“You can look at [playing weaker opponents] from a multitude of ways,” Swanson said. “You can be happy in some instances in some of the things we’re doing but we know that as we get into ACC competition, things are going to amp up a bit more so we have to be prepared for that.”

Five top-25 teams reside in the ACC, including three of the top-10. Because of the difficult schedule that lies ahead, being tested and challenged will be critical for the Cavaliers if they wish to accomplish their ultimate goals.

“Our goals are set pretty high — we want to return back to the Final Four — and being top in the ACC is a goal,” junior defender Emily Sonnett said. “I think with this group of girls and our work rate and our mentality, we can reach those goals.”

Friday’s game is set to start at 8 p.m. in Tuscaloosa and the Sunday match will begin at 2 p.m.

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