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Virginia women’s soccer sets their eyes on an elusive first national championship

Following a remarkable 2020-21 campaign, the Cavaliers have not skipped a beat this season

<p>Junior forward Diana Ordoñez has been instrumental to the team's success, netting eight goals.&nbsp;</p>

Junior forward Diana Ordoñez has been instrumental to the team's success, netting eight goals. 

Virginia women's soccer’s 2020-21 campaign saw them earn a College Cup berth for the first time since 2014 and fourth time in team history. The appearance offered Virginia a golden chance at a second national championship appearance following the heartbreak of years past.

In fact, after their quarterfinal victory over TCU, which advanced the Cavaliers to the College Cup, Coach Steve Swanson said, “For us to get to where we’ve gotten is great. We’re proud of that, but we have a bigger goal.”  

Unfortunately, that bigger goal would not be realized as the Cavaliers fell to FSU in a crushing semifinal penalty shootout.  

Fast forward four months and the Cavaliers look to have effortlessly bounced back, starting the season as the No. 4 ranked team in the country. This was emphatically shown from their 8-0 rout of in-state foe Richmond in their season opener. The shutout extended a streak of five consecutive clean-sheets and saw junior forward Diana Ordoñez continue her prolific run of form with two goals, while four other Cavaliers — including Vanderbilt graduate transfer midfielder Haley Hopkins — joined her on the scoresheet.

Following the Richmond win, the Cavaliers played No. 12 West Virginia, shutting the Mountaineers out and winning thanks to a seventh minute header from none other than Ordoñez. 

Swanson’s women then went on to beat Commonwealth competitors, George Mason and George Washington 2-0 and 6-1, respectively. The only goal conceded in the dominant win over George Washington snapped the third longest shutout streak in program history at a whopping 776:41, thanks in large part to graduate goalkeeper Laurel Ivory. The Cavaliers then continued their stellar run of form with wins over defending national champion Santa Clara and JMU.  

Virginia’s fine run was cut short in a 4-2 loss to No. 14 Penn State. Sophomore midfielder Lia Godfrey and senior forward and midfielder Alexa Spaanstra each provided assists to Ordoñez and chances were plenty, however, short lapses in quality led to goals for the Nittany Lions. While the loss certainly halted the strong momentum the Cavaliers carried from the College Cup, they rebounded against Big 12 opponent Oklahoma. Spaanstra scored from the penalty spot and Godfrey’s exceptional work in the midfield saw her record a goal contribution for the fifth consecutive game in this match.   

A tough act to please, Swanson acknowledged the victory but was not entirely impressed. 

“It was good to get the result, but there is a lot we can get better at,” Swanson said. 

Nonetheless, the win over the Sooners improved the Cavaliers’ record following a non-season-ending loss to 60-8-13 under Swanson.

Overall, it is safe to say that Virginia’s form has hardly dipped from last season. The Cavalier defense and goalkeeping have remained solid as ever, the midfield is providing and the offensive firepower, led by Ordoñez, continues to be bountiful. That being said, firing on all six cylinders at the right time is key for the Cavaliers’ postseason success, which Swanson is no stranger to.

While the Cavaliers are on a tear now, Swanson has proven he can coach a team through to the finish line, having led Virginia to three College Cups and two ACC Championships. In fact, one thing you will notice about Swanson is he rarely over-praises — he harps on consistency over results and often notes areas to work on in his post-game interviews.  

In particular, after the 6-1 crushing of George Washington, Swanson said, “I think everyone can see the potential this team has, but we have to get better in certain areas.”  

It is this pursuit of absolute perfection that shows Swanson still has his eyes intently on the “bigger goal” — a national championship.  

This group of women have shown true character to pick up where they left off. With postseason play a little over a month away — as the ACC Tournament begins Oct. 31 — the Cavaliers have 10 games to continue to build towards a peak postseason performance. A near-perfect record thus far and the imminent improvements from Swanson make this season’s prospects all the more exciting. If the team can come together at the right time, there is no reason why the heights of last year cannot be attained, if not improved.

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