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Virginia men’s soccer set to kick off a new campaign

The Cavaliers will welcome 11 teams to Klöckner Stadium in 2022

<p>The Cavaliers have a difficult road towards returning to their winning ways.</p>

The Cavaliers have a difficult road towards returning to their winning ways.

For Virginia men’s soccer, this season is a chance to prove they still belong among the sport’s elite outfits. Back-to-back losing seasons for the Cavaliers have left a storied program in a state of confusion entering this campaign. 

A disappointing 2021 saw Virginia win their fewest games in a season since 1975 and lose their most in a season since 2008. In 2020, they suffered their first losing season in 39 years. Once a nearly four-decade-long winning streak has now become a two-year losing streak. The Cavaliers will look to end that skid where it currently stands, but it won’t be an easy task. 

Among a slate filled with tough tests, a road trip to defending national champion and preseason No. 1 Clemson stands alone. The two teams didn’t cross paths last season, but Virginia was sent out of the ACC Tournament by the Tigers in 2020 after a 2-1 loss in the semifinals. Several players gearing up for the 2022 season were on the roster for that defeat, creating an intriguing Oct. 15 matchup that will be circled on several calendars.

Elsewhere on the schedule, the Cavaliers will face another difficult road contest in the form of No. 7 Pitt. The Panthers made a run to the quarterfinals of the NCAA Tournament in 2021, but Virginia played them tough when the two sides met, eking out a 2-2 draw in double overtime. Although Pitt will be favored when gameday rolls around on Sept. 30, the Cavaliers will have full belief they can stifle the Panthers again. 

Virginia will only be on the road for three more games in 2022, including a Sept. 24 date with Syracuse and an Oct. 28 matchup against No. 24 North Carolina that will conclude the regular season. The Cavaliers suffered defeats at home to both teams last season, falling 3-1 to the Orange and 2-0 to the Tar Heels. Virginia will hope a change of scenery can catalyze a change of result in both cases. 

With just five away games scheduled, the Cavaliers will host 11 of their 16 regular season contests, including 7 of their 8 non-conference meetings. The only non-conference affair Virginia will hit the road for is a Sept. 5 match against No. 20 Maryland, who defeated the Cavaliers 2-1 last season.

Among Virginia’s other games outside of the ACC is an Oct. 18 home fixture against No. 17 Hofstra. The Pride were a surprise last season, exceeding expectations and winning 18 games on their way to an appearance in the third round of the NCAA Tournament. The Cavaliers defeated Hofstra 4-0 in 2017 when the teams last squared off, but each side will be vastly different when they come toe-to-toe in October. 

Virginia’s out-of-conference slate is fairly manageable otherwise, as the Cavaliers will host a slew of unranked opponents throughout the season. They begin the year with three such games in a week-long period, matching up against Xavier on Aug. 25, Rider on Aug. 29 and James Madison on Sept. 1. Virginia will face three other non-conference opponents in the midst of ACC play, including La Salle on Sept. 13, American on Sept. 20 and Denver on Oct. 4. 

Four ACC teams will travel to Klöckner Stadium this season to take on the Cavaliers, all of which made the NCAA Tournament a year ago. No. 4 Notre Dame, coming to town Sept. 16, will provide the most difficulty for Virginia, having defeated the Cavaliers 2-1 last season en route to an NCAA semifinals appearance. The ensuing games don’t get any easier, as an Oct. 7 matchup with No. 12 Duke and an Oct. 22 fixture against No. 15 Wake Forest will each garner their own challenges. 

But perhaps the most tantalizing of all is the Cavaliers’ Sept. 9 ACC opener against Virginia Tech. This season’s edition of the storied in-state rivalry involves a possible power shift. The Cavaliers and the Hokies have clashed 43 times in their history, with Virginia Tech winning on just 4 occasions. But despite a long history of failure against their archrivals, the Hokies have taken two of the last three matchups, including a hotly contested 2-1 victory in double overtime last season.

When the two sides come together for the 44th time in September, it will be for more than bragging rights. Virginia will look to avoid dropping consecutive games to Virginia Tech, having done so only once in program history.

With nothing but talented teams on the schedule for 2022, the Cavaliers have their work cut out for them. Virginia will take on eight of the country’s top 25 teams, with 5 such occasions coming away from home. Revenge will surely be a word used all season inside the locker room — as the Cavaliers will face all nine teams who defeated them in 2021, but none of the six teams who they defeated. 

If one thing is certain about Virginia’s recipe for success in 2022, they will have to beat teams they couldn’t beat last season. With months of training in the books and new faces on the roster, nobody is denying that possibility. But the leap is necessary, and their season depends on it.