Virginia continues its brutal schedule with another battle against a top-10 opponent. The No. 14 Cavaliers (3-3, 0-1 ACC) have had a mixed start to the season despite huge early expectations. Virginia got back on track this past Monday with a 2-1 win against Liberty.
Despite their record, the Flames (0-4, 0-0 Big South) are a talented team who has only faced ranked opponents thus far. The Cavaliers were able to beat them through the successful execution of two of their penalty corners in the first half.
Junior midfielder Tara Vittese scored the first goal of the night. Senior striker Caleigh Foust struck later off a rebound. Liberty scored late in the game to prevent the shut out for sophomore goalkeeper Carrera Lucas.
“It was very important to get a [win] against Liberty,” coach Michele Madison said. “They’re a very good team.”
Virginia started the game strong Monday. A difference was the use of a press early on, in addition to the fast-paced style of play the team deploys.
“We used to have an old lift coach who said, ‘Come out fast and finish with the fury,’ and I think we did that in the Liberty game,” senior back Jeannie Blackwood said “We came out so fast, and they weren’t used to our tempo. We came out with a press that really took them by surprise.”
The press had a large effect on the game. Liberty was not able to continue their style of play while still effectively defending against it, and Virginia took advantage of that.
“The first half, they had a lot of turnovers, and then in the second half, they had to change their entire structure to try and beat our press,” Blackwood said. “We really forced them to play our game.”
The win was vital as it halted a two-game skid for the Cavaliers. They had previously lost to No. 12 Delaware (4-2, 0-0 CAA) and at No. 2 Duke (6-0, 1-0 ACC). While back-to-back losses are never good, they gave Virginia an idea of what it needed to improve on.
“[We know] that we have to work on our defense to deny our opponent positive results,” Madison said.
The sentiment of working on their defense was one that shared by many players.
“I think we need to improve on getting organized quickly in the back and the front,” Blackwood said. “We need to organize our press sooner and get the ball out of the back faster because if we can start fast we can catch other teams by surprise.”
Virginia will need to be at the top of its game when it faces No. 10 Princeton (3-1, 0-0 Ivy). Both teams have played Delaware, but the Tigers fared much better. They won 4-2 this past Sunday at home.
“[Princeton is] top competition, great attack — they have great players,” Madison said. “Tough competition always brings out the best in our players, and we really need to challenge ourselves and fire on all cylinders.”
Including Princeton, the next three Cavalier games will be against opponents ranked in the top 20.
Virginia will face Princeton Friday at 4 p.m. in Charlottesville at Turf Field.