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No. 8 Virginia women’s soccer set to host No. 11 Duke to open the ACC Tournament

The Cavaliers will take a three-game winning streak into the postseason

<p>The Cavaliers will aim to take down the Blue Devils for the second time this season when they faceoff Sunday night.</p>

The Cavaliers will aim to take down the Blue Devils for the second time this season when they faceoff Sunday night.

The No. 8 Virginia women’s soccer team (13-2-3, 6-2-2 ACC) will take on No. 11 Duke (11-4-2, 6-2-2 ACC) Sunday at 8 p.m. 

Back on Oct. 13th, the Cavaliers had just tied with Virginia Tech and sat at 13th place in the ACC, hanging on to the final spot in the ACC Tournament and in some danger of missing out. Since then, however, Virginia has rattled off three conference wins in a row to claim the fourth seed in the tournament, while the Blue Devils have the fifth seed.

Virginia and Duke last faced each other Oct. 2 in Durham, N.C. At the time, it was a matchup between two top-five teams, and the Cavaliers were able to secure the victory thanks to a goal from junior midfielder Lia Godfrey.

At this point in the season, the odds seem to be in Virginia’s favor, as Duke has not won on the road since they took down North Carolina State back in September. The Cavaliers, on the other hand, have only one home loss on the season against then No. 3 Florida State. Virginia will look to have a big home field advantage as it begins the postseason under the lights at Klöckner Stadium.

Keys to the game

Start strong, finish strong

The Cavaliers went on a three-game skid towards the end of the season — primarily a result of poor performances towards the beginning and end of games — that brought them on the brink of the ACC tournament bubble before righting the ship. A loss to the Seminoles at home was due to a goal scored in the first 45 seconds of the game. The next game, Virginia drew with Syracuse, one of the teams at the bottom of the ACC, after allowing a goal in the first two minutes and the last two minutes of the match. Finally, the Cavaliers allowed the game-tying goal against the Hokies with 39 seconds left in the match.

Virginia has to be ready to lock in for the full 90 minutes when it comes to these high-level games, and they have certainly shown the capability to do that. Against North Carolina earlier in the season, the Cavaliers made an incredible comeback after being punched in the mouth early. This is the type of mentality that this team will need to have in order to make it through the bracket.

Apply pressure throughout

This Virginia offense is loaded with talent that has been on display throughout the season, and the team as a whole is at its best when the ball is on their opponents’ side. The Cavaliers have to control midfield and create as many opportunities as they can. Godfrey is of course no stranger to scoring in clutch situations, recording the game winners against both the Blue Devils and the Tar Heels. Similarly, graduate student Haley Hopkins has put on an electrifying performance for Virginia fans all season, with 11 total goals and three game winners of her own.

Duke has a dynamic duo of strikers in freshman Kat Rader and sophomore Michelle Cooper, who have 10 and 12 goals on the season, respectively. Earlier this season, the Cavaliers held the two of them to a combined three shots, and they will have to do that again this time out. Similar to a football team who knows the secret to beating a great quarterback is to keep him on the sideline, Virginia will look to keep the ball away from both of these players by controlling midfield and maintaining pressure on the Blue Devils’ defense.

The winner of this game gets to play North Carolina in Chapel Hill N.C. Thursday, but the Cavaliers have to stay focused on this one. Sunday’s matchup will kick off  at 8 p.m. at Klöckner Stadium and will be broadcast on the ACC Network.

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