Fall sports midseason roundtable: The most pressing questions in Virginia sports

Taking a look at what’s to come in fall sports as men’s and women’s soccer remain undefeated

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Virginia football, women's soccer and field hockey have just three losses combined in 2019.

Emma Klein | and Courtesy Virginia Athletics

Virginia fall sports has started the season strong. Football started 4-0 for the first time since 2005 before falling to No. 10 Notre Dame on the road. Volleyball is off to its best start since 2015. Field hockey is ranked within the top ten in the country. Men’s cross country is ranked.

Men’s and women’s soccer are having historic seasons as both are undefeated and ranked No. 1 in the country.

With all this success, it’s time to take a look ahead. The CD sports staff answers the most pressing questions in Virginia sports at the midseason mark.

Which fall sports team has the best shot at bringing Virginia its 28th national championship?

Luke Stievater, Sports Columnist: Women’s soccer has been dominant so far this season, as can be seen by its undefeated record. In 11 games played, the Cavaliers have recorded seven shut-outs and have never allowed more than one goal in a game. With a stout defense and a balanced offensive attack, they are in a great position to compete for and eventually win a national championship.

Muhammad Amjad, Associate Writer: Men’s soccer is a team with championship pedigree and a body of work that demonstrates the Cavaliers’ strength. With wins against then-No. 1 Maryland and then-No. 2 Duke — both ACC rivals — this group is ready for any test it might face. Coach George Gelnovatch has brought out the best from sophomore forward Daryl Dike and junior midfielder Joe Bell, but this team’s strength is in its well-rounded play on both sides of the pitch. With such versatility and depth, the Cavaliers may be hoisting their eighth championship trophy later this season.

Chad Whych, Staff Writer: Although field hockey suffered its first home loss to No. 1 North Carolina this past Wednesday, the team is poised for a bounce-back title run. Currently ranked No. 5 in the country, the Cavaliers have conceded just 11 goals in nine games played. With a stout defense and powerful home presence, Virginia can use this loss as motivation to top the Tar Heels when they likely meet in the ACC and NCAA tournaments and take home some titles.

Who’s been the most exciting athlete to watch this fall?

LS: Senior wide receiver Joe Reed has been electric both offensively and on special teams. He leads the team in receiving touchdowns with four and is second in receiving yards with 322. Throw in his 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against William & Mary and it’s evident that his stats are tremendous. However, what makes him so exciting to watch is that every time the ball is in his hands, you know something amazing could happen.

MA: It’s no accident Virginia has had a historic start to the young football season. The defense deserves a ton of credit, but what senior quarterback Bryce Perkins has been able to do with his arm and his legs has been the difference this season. He’s shown a level of accuracy and decision-making ability that few quarterbacks in the country possess. He has an array of tools under his bet including downfield throws and designed runs. This has been crucial for Virginia in a season where the rushing attack and pass protection have not been terrific. No matter what situation, Virginia fans know Perkins can always pull a great play out of his hat — just ask Florida State. 

CW: Virginia’s women’s soccer team has a knack for goal scoring. In 2019, the Cavaliers have outscored their opponents by a margin of 38 goals to 4. A new leader of this potent offense has emerged in freshman forward Diana Ordoñez. She is a true playmaker, leading the team with 10 goals and posting two assists so far this season. Her most exciting attribute, however, is her ability to perform in clutch situations. She already has three game-winning goals this year, proving that she is a clinical finisher when the game is on the line.

Will women’s soccer remain undefeated?

LS: As touched on above, the women’s soccer team has a solid chance to stay undefeated. Of its seven remaining games, only two come against currently ranked teams — No. 6 Florida State and No. 22 Louisville. Although no game can be overlooked, the rest of the schedule seems to fall in the Cavaliers’ favor. While the postseason will be more difficult, Virginia is championship caliber and can do whatever it takes to win it all.

CW: Oct. 13 is a truly frightening date for the women’s soccer team. The Cavaliers head to Tallahassee, Fla., for an ACC clash against No. 6 Florida State. This is the only meeting which has true upset potential for the Cavaliers. The Seminoles have yet to lose a home game and have an average fan attendance of almost 7,000 at the Seminole Soccer Complex. This will be a daunting road test for Virginia and perhaps the team’s first loss of the season. 

MA: It’s possible — but not likely. We’re in the thick of ACC play which means the teams who know us best are itching to knock off the top-ranked Cavaliers. On a game-by-game basis, Virginia is capable of going undefeated. However, as attrition sets in and underdogs like Boston College and Louisville play with little to lose, the threat of Virginia’s first loss looms large. 

What’s your boldest prediction for the remainder of the fall sports season?

LS: The football team will make a New Year’s Six Bowl and win it — making it one of the biggest wins in program history. After the Notre Dame loss, Virginia will run the table, win the ACC Coastal and face Clemson in the ACC Championship. Although the Cavaliers will likely lose against arguably the best team in the country, they will earn a bid to a New Year’s Six Bowl, after finishing 11-2. They will then defeat one of the top teams in the country to once and for all prove that Virginia football is back.

MA: Field hockey will be a final four team this season. The team has had a resurgence following a disappointing 2018 season and have a strong record to show for it. With wins against perennial powerhouses — Penn State and Maryland — Virginia has likely played its toughest opponents already and played exceptionally well. The attacking core of freshman striker Laura Janssen, junior striker Makayla Gallen and senior back Anzel Viljoen lead a star-studded group that’s hungry for its first championship. The only challenge for a deep tournament run will be inexperience. 

CW: Virginia football will defeat Virginia Tech by three touchdowns or more — bringing the Commonwealth Cup back to Charlottesville for the first time in fifteen years. Virginia has outscored its opponents 161-107 through four games this season. Virginia Tech, on the other hand, has struggled to produce at home. The Hokies survived a close game against FCS opponent Furman two weeks ago and lost to Duke by 35 points last week. Given their disappointing play on their own home turf, the Hokies will likely struggle in Charlottesville in November. 

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