After a bounce-back weekend that saw a convincing win over Wake Forest, the No. 8 Virginia women’s soccer team looks to extend their winning streak entering October. The Cavaliers await a tough road showdown against a hot Louisville team (9-2, 3-1 ACC) Thursday night at 7 p.m. and continue their trip to Alumni Stadium in South Bend, INd. where they will compete against Notre Dame (6-6, 2-2 ACC) on Sunday at noon.
Dropping two spots in the national rankings after their loss to Virginia Tech Sept. 27, the Cavaliers look to regain their lost position by proving themselves against a capable conference rival, Louisville, in week three of ACC play. The dominating 5-1 defeat of Wake Forest at home last Sunday afternoon drew some positive takeaways from the coaching staff.
“It was a tremendous atmosphere today and it was good to be home – it’s been a long stretch for us,” Virginia Coach Steve Swanson said. “The last few games have been really tight and teams have sat back a little more against us. There was a little more space in there today and we scored some good goals to get off to a good start.”
Goals from senior midfielder Betsy Brandon, freshman forward Rebecca Jarrett, junior forward Meghan McCool and freshman forward Alexa Spaanstra propelled the Cavaliers to victory. McCool netted two — including the game-winner — turning in her first multiple-score game,. Five of the six shots on goal ended up finding the net, showing the Cavaliers’ keen ability to finish and capitalize on only 11 shot attempts. Meanwhile, sophomore goalkeeper Lauren Ivory allowed only her fifth goal of the season.
While a strong attacking front and an active goalkeeper highlighted the win, Swanson noted areas for improvement.
“Our players responded well today, but we have to keep working on things. We’re capable of scoring goals, I’m confident of that. It’s about what happens when teams play us a little tighter and teams play us a little differently. We have to adjust, be a little sharper on chances and better about playing balls on frame and with our runs,” Swanson said.
Moving forward, the Cavaliers should be optimistic about the future with talented freshman Rebecca Jarrett. Jarrett leads the Cavaliers with five goals and 11 points this season. Jarrett tops a strong and deep group of freshman.
Building off of new talent such as Jarrett and Spaanstra, the Cavaliers also return a great deal of talent from last year having lost only two starters to graduation. The returners include Brandon, Ivory and sophomore midfielder Taryn Torres — who tied for the most goals scored by a Cavalier last year.
Given the tremendous depth of the squad, it is no surprise that to date, 12 different players have scored goals for Virginia and 14 different players have assists. Their ability to share the ball and create multiple threats on goal has enabled highlighted a strong season thus far. The fact that Virginia averages almost three goals per game is emblematic of their great potential heading into the postseason next month.
In preparation for this weekend, the Cavaliers will square off against a formidable opponent in Louisville. The Cardinals enter the contest 9-2 on the season and 3-1 in ACC play, despite the recent loss at the hands of North Carolina this past Sunday. In that match, Louisville was blown out 5-1 by North Carolina. This loss suggests weakness of the Louisville starting eleven that can be exploited by the Cavaliers Thursday night.
Louisville has a few key players to watch. Junior forward Maisie Whitsett leads Louisville with eight goals along two assists. Brooklynn Rivers poses even more of dual threat with 7 goals and 5 assists thus far. On the defensive side of the pitch, sophomore goalkeeper Gabby Kouzelos stands strong with five clean sheets to date.
Continuing into Sunday, the Cavaliers take on a less impressive Notre Dame squad. With only a 6-6 season record and the Cavaliers high winning percentage, Virginia has a good shot at coming out on top to close a long but successful road schedule for the year.
Both matches will air on ACC Network Extra, which is available through WatchESPN and the ESPN app.