Virginia will face off with Virginia Tech at Klockner Stadium Friday to finish off its regular season prior to the start of the ACC tournament Nov. 15. The Cavaliers (2-2-1, 2-2-1 ACC) beat Syracuse Friday night to avoid a third consecutive loss and will aim to continue the momentum in the game against their in-state rival. The Hokies (2-1-2, 2-1-2 ACC) have won their last two games and are coming alive at just the right time to end the regular season. Virginia’s current unbeaten streak versus Virginia Tech stands at 16 straight games, with the Cavaliers looking to extend that streak to 17.
In their first meeting this season, the game between the Cavaliers and the Hokies ended in a 1-1 tie after a tense game that lasted into double overtime. In a shortened season, every game is critical, and this rivalry game is no exception. With their victory over Notre Dame on Monday, Virginia Tech jumped Virginia by one point in the ACC standings to take second place in the North Region. The regular season finale between the Cavaliers and the Hokies will be crucial in determining seeding heading into the ACC tournament, so both teams will be vying for a victory and a key three points.
Players to watch
Virginia sophomore defender Andreas Ueland
Ueland, a team captain this year, is the leader and backbone of the Virginia defense. Playing against a Virginia Tech offense that loves to shoot the ball — outshooting its opponents 97-40 this season — Ueland and the rest of the defense will need to play tight defense and prevent the Hokies from getting quality scoring opportunities. The Virginia defense has struggled this year, allowing more goals in its first five games of this season than in the entirety of last year's regular season, but they have been trending upwards in recent games. Coming off of their first shutout of the season against Syracuse, Ueland and the Virginia defense will need to continue their strong defensive momentum in the Hokies matchup.
On offense, Ueland can occasionally provide a spark. Ueland's first goal of the season came against Syracuse when he calmly placed a penalty kick into the bottom corner, a goal that would win the game for the Cavaliers. Ueland’s height makes him a threat in the air on corners and free kicks, and he has come close to scoring a header many times this season. Although his main role is holding down the Virginia defense, Ueland could make the all difference in the game on offense.
Virginia Tech senior forward Jacob Labovitz
After a quiet start to the season, Labovitz has come alive for the Virginia Tech offense, scoring three goals in the Hokies’ last two games. Following his two-goal performance against Louisville, Labovitz was named ACC Men’s Soccer Offensive Player of the Week. In fact, the contributions by Labovtiz on offense have made all the difference in turning the Hokies’ season around. Virginia Tech has won two straight games with Labovitz scoring both game-winning goals, putting the Hokies in an excellent position heading into the postseason. The Great Falls, Va. native has proven that he can step up in big games, so watch for him to play a large part in the Hokies’ offensive attack and make a big difference on the scoreboard.
Look for Labovitz and the rest of the Hokies’ offense to test freshman goalkeeper Alex Rando all night with shots. The Virginia Tech offense is averaging 19.4 shots per game, but only 40.2 percent of those shots have been on goal. As such, expect the Labovitz and Hokies’ offense to focus on taking more accurate shots. Overall, Labovitz may not take as many shots as his teammates, but his ability to finish his chances has been a major factor in his recent offensive explosion.
Keys to the game
Keep calm and maintain possession
Virginia has out-possessed every opponent in the season, and in order to beat Virginia Tech, they will need to continue to do so. Despite being outshot by their opponents 56-81 on the season, the Cavaliers have managed to control possession in every game this season and have made the most of their own offensive opportunities. Virginia’s success will come from an ability to control the flow of the game and limit the Hokies offensive attack by keeping the ball away from the Virginia Tech forwards. Virginia Tech is entering this rivalry game on a hot streak, but by maintaining possession, the Cavaliers can continue their success in besting the Hokies and extend their streak.