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Previewing the 2021 season for Virginia women’s soccer

After an impressive semifinal run in the College Cup, the Cavaliers look for their first national championship to date

No. 3 Virginia is ranked highly in the United Soccer Coach ranking after an impressive run to the semifinals in the 2020 College Cup — which took place in the spring of 2021 — and four big wins to start the season. The first three were shutout wins — the first, an impressive 8-0 win over Richmond that featured five different goal scorers, the second being a 1-0 victory over West Virginia and the third, a 2-0 defeat of George Mason. Most recently, Virginia crushed George Washington 6-1 after getting on the board early. While it’s still early in the season, let’s break down Virginia’s schedule, roster and share some predictions for the squad.

Schedule Breakdown

Virginia’s fall schedule features 18 games, six of which are ranked in the Top 25 by the United Soccer Coach ranking. Furthermore, half of the top-ranked teams will be a part of the Cavaliers’ ACC play showcasing how competitive the league is.

Three of the final four teams in the 2020 College Cup were ACC teams, which will make for some high-level soccer games in the upcoming weeks.

The Cavaliers’ schedule includes eight home matches and 10 away matches. Unlike last fall, fans and family members will be able to attend games live in Klockner Stadium at full capacity.

Roster Breakdown

While there are eight players new to the program, veteran leadership and experience from the 26 returning players will be what the Cavaliers rely on this upcoming season. After a year of  sports seasons being impacted by COVID-19, the NCAA granted an extra year of availability, which aids Virginia as it returns multiple superstars. 

Experience in the Virginia offense is abundant, as senior forwards Alexa Spaanstra and Rebecca Jarrett, along with junior forward Diana Ordonez are returning and expected to be a critical component of the team’s success. 

The roster also includes transfer graduate forward/midfielder Haley Hopkins, who previously played for Vanderbilt and was named to the All-SEC team in all three previous seasons. Hopkins has scored 34 career goals, second all-time in Vanderbilt history, and is looking to add some more with the Cavaliers as she enhances the already star-studded offense.

Hopkins, Spaanstra and sophomore midfielder Lia Godfrey, the 2020 ACC Freshman of the Year, have been named to the MAC Hermann Trophy watchlist, an award which is the highest individual honor. 

Defensively, graduate goalkeeper Laurel Ivory will look to finish out her college career this season in the Virginia back line along with graduate defender Lizzy Sieracki and senior defender Claire Constant. These defenders, combined with the return of starting sophomore defender Samar Guidry, should provide a strong foundation for the Virginia defense this fall.

It is known that there are many older players on the women’s soccer team, which is why Coach Steve Swanson’s seven freshman recruits are critical to building the program. While the majority of the lineup has well-established players competing for a starting spot, it wouldn’t be surprising to see some younger players get minutes as the program looks further into the future.


When thinking back to last spring, the Cavaliers played confident soccer and had strong chemistry that led to their impressive College Cup run. Virginia is expected to use the semifinal loss in penalty kicks as motivation, knowing that it was so close to the program’s first National Championship.

Virginia will look to come out and score early in games while focusing on continuing a streak of shut out games, which will be necessary against strong offensive teams such as Florida State and North Carolina — the No. 1 and 2 teams, respectively.

There will be an added pressure to ACC games given that the three top teams in the country compete in the conference. However, Virginia is a solid contender in these matchups with its already talented roster and eight new players who add depth and a fresh perspective. 

Virginia will play next at the Fairfield by Marriott Invitational, where it will face Santa Clara and James Madison. Broadcasting information for both games has yet to be determined.