Before the 2019 season began, Coach Steve Swanson returned to Charlottesville fresh off of a World Cup win in France with the United States Women’s National Team, ready to take on the year with renewed confidence in his Virginia team. Just six games in, the No. 5 Virginia women’s soccer team has already justified its high expectations with dominant play on both sides of the ball. The Cavaliers (6-0, 0-0 ACC) have already recorded 25 goals and 108 shots through their first six contests, cruising past opponents with ease as they work through their schedule. With Swanson at the helm, Virginia has consistently been ranked nationally, advanced to the Round of 16 of the NCAA tournament in 14 consecutive seasons and finished fourth in the ACC in 2018. However, something is different about this year’s Virginia team and the way it is playing. The Cavaliers have recorded six straight wins and look to threaten nationally-ranked opponents, including No. 8 Penn State and No. 6 Florida State. Ruthless on offense and unrelenting on defense, the Cavaliers look like serious contenders to make a deep run in this year’s tournament. The Virginia defense has been an unmatched force this season. Junior goalkeeper Laurel Ivory has only been tested a handful of times and has conceded just once all season against West Virginia. Sophomore defender Claire Constant and senior defenders Phoebe McClernon and Zoe Morse help Ivory by stifling opponents’ attacks and clearing any ball venturing into Virginia territory. The backline’s ability to deny any attempt at entering the box has been key to Virginia’s high scoring and shutout victories. The Cavaliers’ transitions are efficient and beautiful to watch. Junior midfielders Anna Sumpter and Taryn Torres and senior defender Courtney Petersen have made a big difference in moving the ball quickly downfield after a defensive stop. One-touch passes and accurate crosses have consistently sliced through opposing defenses and provided clear scoring opportunities for Virginia’s attackers. The added pace and firepower of the Cavaliers’ offense has been a challenge for defenders to keep up with. In the season opener against UC Irvine, the Cavaliers tallied three straight goals in the final 15 minutes. On the front line, returning stars have continued to make their mark. Senior forward Meghan McCool and sophomore forward Alexa Spaanstra have the ability to hit the goal from any distance and angle. Each has recorded goals from outside the box, showing impressive power and control with their shooting. Spaanstra especially is entertaining to watch as she speeds past opponents with ease, charging downfield like a freight train and contributing key assists and goals. Perhaps the most impactful addition to the Virginia roster this season has been freshman forward Diana Ordonez. The Texas native currently leads the team with 9 goals and 20 points, proving she is a force to be reckoned with on the pitch. Ordonez has generated plenty of excitement amongst the Virginia faithful, who greet her with unwavering support as she takes the field at Klöckner Stadium. The 5-foot-11 star certainly sticks out as she makes her mark on the field every game. While the numbers speak for themselves, Ordonez’ ability to score in a variety of ways makes her the Cavaliers’ most dangerous attacking weapon. In Virginia’s game against Liberty, Ordonez recorded a hat trick — the first for a Virginia player since 2017. The seven-match home stretch has provided the perfect environment for both veterans and new players to thrive. Fans crowd Klöckner Stadium each match with high expectations for the team and are rarely disappointed. The Cavaliers have scored three or more goals in four of their first six games this season, while posting shutouts in five. While Virginia’s record is excellent, there are still concerns that need to be addressed. The goal allowed against West Virginia was a result of a disjointed performance late in the second half and poor clearing attempts that left Ivory visibly frustrated. There have also been times where the Cavaliers have controlled the ball for long stretches without being able to find the back of the net. Nevertheless, Virginia has still dominated most of its opponents and seems to have the talent and skill to cover any weaknesses. If Virginia can remain disciplined both on offense and defense, the Cavaliers should have no problem continuing to win games and finishing at the top of the ACC. The next big test will be the team’s first away match against No. 8 Penn State Sept. 15 — a game that could tell us whether or not Virginia has what it takes to be a legitimate national title contender.