Women’s soccer’s freshman class is at the heart of the undefeated Cavaliers

Freshman players talk about classes, role models and what attracted them to U.Va.

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Freshman forward Diana Ordoñez leads Virginia with 13 goals. 

Courtesy Virginia Athletics

Virginia women’s soccer is having a phenomenal season — a No. 1 ranking and undefeated record are proof of that. Veteran Cavaliers have certainly played an important role, but the team’s freshmen are making a name for themselves as well.

The Cavaliers (12-0-3, 4-0-3 ACC) have many talented returning players both on offense, with forwards like sophomore Alexa Spaanstra and senior Meghan McCool, and on defense, with defenders like sophomore Claire Constant and senior Phoebe McClernon and junior goalkeeper Laurel Ivory. 

However, as good as the returners are, it's impossible to talk about this year’s team without highlighting the freshman class.

In a short amount of time, the freshman Cavaliers have already built a reputation within the soccer community — they are state championship winners, Gatorade Players of the Year and were even ranked in IMG’s Top 150 for the high school class of 2019. 

Leading Virginia’s attack is freshman forward Diana Ordoñez. Hailing from Prosper, Texas, Ordoñez competed with club team FC Dallas and was named the 2017 Texas Gatorade Player of the Year. She graduated high school early which allowed her to enroll in the University and train with the team in the spring.

“I didn’t know how to associate myself because I was in the first-year class, but I was also really close with the second-years now because they were first-years,” Ordoñez said. 

Ordoñez specifically noted Ivory as a teammate who helped her transition into college at just 17 years old. 

“I mostly connect with Laurel [Ivory], and we have a lot of similarities and the fact that … when she came into college she was 17 just like I was, and so she was able to help me go through what she went through,” Ordoñez said.

Ordoñez commands an impressive presence on the field — at 5-foot-11, she’s hard to miss. So far this season, she’s racked up 13 goals and two assists, including a hat trick against Liberty Aug. 25, all while balancing classes.

“I think coming in the spring, I had a lot of time to study and do homework, and I think it was kind of a shock when I came into the season because I just didn’t have that time, and so now it’s like harder than it was in the spring,” Ordoñez said.

While she is the Cavaliers’ leading goal-scorer, Ordoñez isn’t the only freshman to have made an impact for Virginia this season. 

Notably, freshman defender Talia Staude has racked up 938 minutes of playing time this season — more than any other freshman. With an assist against William & Mary earlier this season, Staude proved that she’s also not afraid to step out of her typical defensive role. Even in tough matchups against rival teams like No. 23 Virginia Tech, Staude demonstrated impressive composure and played well as a starter.

Staude was a member of the U.S. Women’s National Team at four different levels — U14, U15, U17 and U20. She was also a three-time state champion in high school and ranked sixth in IMG’s Top 150 for the Class of 2019. Her decision to join Virginia was motivated by a combination of athletics and academics.

“I chose U.Va. because it was like the best style of soccer that I thought I could fit into and the best education that I would get,” Staude said.

Academically, Staude noted Abnormal Psychology as both her favorite and her hardest class this semester. She cited senior defender Zoe Morse as someone who has helped her with school and staying on track.

Freshman forward Cam Lexow, a Gatorade Player of the Year from Pennsylvania, joins Ordoñez on Virginia’s offense this year. So far, Lexow has recorded one assist against East Carolina and one goal against Liberty.

“I have always known that I wanted to play collegiate soccer.” Lexow said. “I played basketball too, but I was definitely better at soccer.” 

She added that the hospitality of the older girls on the team made the transition to college much easier.

“I felt welcomed in the beginning,” Lexow said. “Right from the start, there were so many people that opened up where they were living — their apartments — to me and just made me feel like I was part of the team.”

Ordoñez, Staude and Lexow are just three members of Virginia’s standout freshman class.

Freshman midfielder Lacey McCormack is an important addition to the offense this year after scoring two game-winning goals in her high school state championship game this past year. Another freshman midfielder — Emma Dawson — has recorded 208 minutes this season and is a force both on and off the field. She graduated as valedictorian of her high school class and continues to push herself academically as an Echols Scholar this year. 

Freshman defender Kira Maguire also joins the Class of 2023 this year after a multi-sport high school career — competing in soccer, lacrosse and track. Joining her on the back line is another multi-sport athlete — freshman midfielder Jansen Eichenlaub. Eichenlaub was a two-time Gatorade Player of the Year and track and field state champion in Michigan.

Finally, Virginia’s freshman class is rounded out by two goalies — Siena Sandridge and Cayla White. While Ivory continues to play well between the sticks, the young pair will have a chance to make their mark sooner or later.

With Virginia looking increasingly like the best team in the country, it's easy to forget just how young the Cavaliers are. However, if the freshman players continue playing at such a high level, the entire nation will soon take notice — for the next four years.

The Cavaliers look to continue their undefeated streak against Louisville at home at Klöckner Stadium Oct. 24 at 7 p.m.

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