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No. 10 women’s soccer to play six spring season games ahead of NCAA tournament

The Cavaliers hope to bounce back from a loss to North Carolina in the ACC semifinals

<p>The Cavaliers — who continue to search for that elusive national title — will look to a six-game spring slate to catapult them into a deep run in the NCAA Tournament.</p>

The Cavaliers — who continue to search for that elusive national title — will look to a six-game spring slate to catapult them into a deep run in the NCAA Tournament.

No. 10 women’s soccer is less than a week out from starting their six-game spring season that features an exhibition match against the North Carolina Courage of the NWSL. The Cavaliers (8-3-1, 5-2-1 ACC) played 12 games in the fall, including eight ACC matches before their season ended with a 2-0 loss to North Carolina in the ACC semifinal match. 

The spring season will consist of two home games and four on the road ahead of NCAA Tournament Selection Day on April 18. 

Virginia opened with a 2-0 victory against George Mason on Feb. 28 at 2 p.m., then will head on the road for a series of away games with matches at VCU (March 6 at 4 p.m.), at Old Dominion (March 14 at 5 p.m.), against the NWSL North Carolina Courage (March 27 at 4 p.m.) and finally at West Virginia (April 3 at 4 p.m.). To end their slate, the Cavaliers will duel West Virginia again — this time at home — the following week (April 10 at 3 p.m.). 

Virginia is expected to make an appearance in its 32nd NCAA Tournament — the team has made it to every tournament dating back to 1994. The NCAA Tournament — which normally takes place in the fall — will be held in the spring this year. Also, instead of the usual 64 teams competing in the tournament, there will only be 48 teams this year. Both the early round playing sites and the format are yet to be announced.

The NCAA College Cup — the semifinal and final matches — will be held May 13-17 at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, N.C.

The Cavaliers are entering the spring season with the hopes of rebounding from a disappointing exit in just the second round of the 2019 NCAA Tournament. A notable return from the fall’s Virginia squad is freshman midfielder Lia Godfrey — ACC Freshman of the Year and ACC second team. Furthermore, junior forward Alexa Spaanstra was named to the ACC first team, and junior forward Rebecca Jarrett and sophomore forward Diana Ordoñez joined Godfrey on the ACC second team. Freshman defender Samar Guidry was named alongside Godfrey to the Freshman All-ACC team. 

The Cavaliers played a solid fall season finishing with eight wins, three loses and a tie. However, there are a few things that will be critical to the Virginia squad if they hope to have a successful six-game season and make a far run in the NCAA Tournament. 

First, the Cavaliers will need to sharpen up on their defense and limit scoring from their opposition. In 2019, Virginia played in 22 matches and conceded just 11 goals. Comparatively, in the 12 games played in the fall of 2020, the Cavaliers conceded 17 goals. It is critical for Virginia to stay on both halves of the field to minimize punishing mistakes.

Second, the Virginia offense needs to start games strong and get on the scoreboard early. In the fall season, the Cavaliers won every game in which they scored first in. Virginia has strong offensive chemistry with Ordonez and Spaanstra scoring an astonishing seven and six goals, respectively, as well as Jarrett and Godrey combining for an additional six goals. Godfrey leads the team with six assists and — despite being only a freshman — played the second-most amount of minutes in the fall season. 

Finally, it will be critical for the Cavaliers to stay healthy in terms of both injuries and COVID-19. College sports being played in the middle of a pandemic has turned out to be very unpredictable, and many collegiate teams — including the Virginia women’s soccer team — have had to cancel games and even entire seasons due to a lack of player availability. In the spring season, especially with the surge in University COVID-19 cases, it is essential for the Cavaliers to stay healthy if they want to be successful.

The Cavaliers kicked off their spring campaign against George Mason 2 p.m. Sunday in Charlottesville. Due to the limited spectator allowance under the Commonwealth of Virginia’s “Forward Virginia” guidelines, the University permits only coaching staff and student-athletes’ families to attend the game.