Previewing 2019 Virginia women’s soccer

The Cavaliers face a challenging regular season schedule and aim to improve on last year’s postseason

gallery-image-7

Alex Spaanstra, a sophomore forward and Virginia's top attacker, will once again be a critical piece for the Cavaliers. 

Courtesy Virginia Athletics

After advancing to the Round of 16 of the NCAA Tournament for the 14th consecutive season in 2018, Virginia enters the 2019 season ranked No. 9 in the United Soccer Coaches Preseason Poll. In 2019, the team will look to advance further in the tournament as well as improve upon its third place standing in the ACC.

Schedule Breakdown

Virginia is scheduled to face eight top-25 teams during the regular season, with home matches against No. 11 West Virginia, No. 7 Georgetown, No. 25 Virginia Tech and No. 8 Duke. The 18-match regular season schedule features 10 ACC and eight non-conference games, including seven matches against teams that advanced to the Round of 16 or further in the 2018 NCAA Tournament.

New Cavaliers

Entering the 2019 season, there are 10 new additions to the Virginia roster. Among the group of incoming freshmen are three players ranked in the nation’s top 150 players, two Gatorade Players of the Year and three players who have competed internationally on the United States U17 Women’s National Team. But with so many returning talents, the new recruits will have the opportunity to settle into their new team without the pressure of being expected to make an immediate impact. 

Returning Players

While the incoming recruiting class is ranked No. 14 nationally, Virginia won’t need to rely on those new players to win games. The squad will be filled with veterans as 16 players are returning this season, including seven seniors. 

To name a few, senior defender Phoebe McClernon, sophomore forward Alexa Spaanstra and junior goalkeeper Laurel Ivory were all recently named to the 61-player preseason watchlist for the Hermann Trophy — awarded each season to the top male and female collegiate soccer player. 

What to Expect on Offense

Senior forward Meghan McCool along with sophomore forward Rebecca Jarrett and Spaanstra led the offense last season and will return to the front lines in the fall. The trio scored a combined 24 of the team’s 52 goals. Spaanstra was named an All-Region First Team selection and an All-ACC Third Team selection. She tied with McCool for the team lead in goals, 9, and led the team in points, 24. Jarrett also recorded an impressive six goals and two assists in her freshman season.

What to Expect on Defense

Senior defenders Phoebe McClernon and Zoe Morse will look to finish their college careers this season, leading the Virginia back line. McClernon was named an All-America Third Team selection and All-Region First Team selection as well as an All-ACC First Team selection in 2018. She is a necessary anchor on the defensive line and was a big reason the Cavaliers posted 10 shutouts last season, including four in ACC play and two in the NCAA tournament. 

Ivory will be playing in goal once again for the Cavaliers, having started every match in which she played during the 2017 and 2018 seasons. The veteran goalkeeper recorded a 14-5-1 record in 2018 with a 0.73 goals against average, and she helped lead the Cavaliers to the Round of 16 with seven solo shutouts. 

Predictions

Virginia will look to maintain its high-scoring style of play especially against strong defensive teams like No. 1 Florida State and No. 7 Georgetown. Veteran players like McCool, Spaanstra and Jarrett bring the experience necessary to challenge these teams’ goals and to score in key moments.

The Cavaliers’ defense will be tested during the regular season as well by opponents like Boston College and Georgetown. However, as one of the top goalkeepers in collegiate soccer, Ivory should be able to maintain her high career save percentage even against ranked teams. 

The incoming class adds depth to an already talented roster, and this year’s squad certainly has the potential to make it past the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament. With the first seven matches at home, Virginia has the opportunity to kick off the season with a winning record and build momentum for the rest of the year. 

With the season underway, the Cavaliers have already demonstrated their offensive talent. The team beat UC Irvine 7-0 in their season-opener and cruised past Liberty in similar fashion with a 6-0 performance. Spaanstra currently leads the team with 5 assists and freshman forward Diana Ordonez has made a strong debut with a combined five goals over the two games. Virginia will look to continue to play hard and fast through the rest of their schedule. 

related stories