Women’s soccer hosts Monmouth in NCAA tournament opener

The Cavaliers seek redemption after ACC Semifinal exit

Freshman Alex Spaanstra has been a standout for the Virginia women's soccer team this season. Courtesy Virginia Athletics

This past Monday, the Division I Women’s Soccer 2018 NCAA Tournament bracket was revealed. The Cavaliers (15-4, 7-3 ACC) earned an at-large selection to the tournament after finishing third in the ACC and advancing to the semifinals of the ACC Championship. They were given a No. 3 seed and a first-round matchup Friday at home against the Monmouth Hawks.

Entering the contest after a demoralizing loss exactly one week ago in the ACC semifinal against Florida State, Virginia has had its struggles. Despite matching Florida State stride for stride as well as taking a 1-0 lead in the first half, the Cavaliers had no answer for the Seminoles’ pace of play in the second half, allowing three goals to end the game. 

"The better team won tonight and nobody can dispute that," Virginia Coach Steve Swanson said. "Florida State was better than us in every phase, including the coaching. We've got to bounce back from this. It was disappointing from our end because we didn't play very well as a team and credit Florida State for that."

The loss is the first concession after leading since a 1-2 final against North Carolina in September of 2017. Moreover, this performance is the second one all season where Virginia has surrendered more than one goal. Moving forward, the Cavaliers should continue on with confidence and look to their fast-pace, high scoring offense to carry them past a talented, under the radar Monmouth team.

Virginia boasts one of the top scoring offenses in the country, tied for fifth nationally by averaging 2.58 goals per game and tied for sixth in total goals. The Cavaliers are also ranked top five nationally in assists, assists per game, total points and points per game. This season has proved to be a mix of big wins against No. 11 Penn State and No. 12 Duke and big losses twice to a tournament No.1 Florida State. 

The Cavaliers have enormous potential with a plethora of individual talent on both ends of the field. All-ACC selections were given to four players: junior Phoebe McCleron, freshman Alex Spaanstra, sophomore Taryna Torres and sophomore Rebecca Jarrett. Spaanstra earned even greater honor by being named to the ACC Tournament All-Tournament Team with a goal and an assist in Virginia’s victory over Louisville in the quarterfinals. 

Given their pool of talent and style of play, their keys to victory are pressure and intensity for the entire duration of the match as well as consistent offense movement and shots on goal.

Monmouth (16-3-1, 9-1 MAAC) comes into the picture as the third-consecutive MAAC tournament champion with an eleven game win streak. Monmouth swept MAAC honors for Offensive Player of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year. Both teams show tremendous offensive strength with an even forty-nine goals on the season.

Monmouth and Virginia enter action with two opponents in common from this season, NC State and Bucknell. Both teams defeated Bucknell but the Hawks lost in overtime to NC State while Virginia won. The contest will be the second meeting all-time between the two teams after the Cavaliers defeated Monmouth 4-1 in the 2016 NCAA Tournament. 

The Cavaliers take on the Hawks at Klockner Stadium at 7 p.m. on Friday.

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