Sept. 9, 2006
by Steve Kirkland
Assistant Director, UVa Athletics Media Relations
In each of the past two seasons, the Virginia women’s soccer team has made history on the defensive end of the field. In 2004, as the Cavaliers won their first ACC Championship, the team set school records with 14 shutouts and just 13 goals allowed. Last season, the record for shutouts was tied as Virginia once again held 14 opponents scoreless. In the center of this historic era of defense is goalkeeper Christina de Vries, who enters her senior season already ranked in the top five in ACC history for career shutouts.
“Christina, along with the help our goalkeeper coach Maren Rojas, has transformed herself into one of the top goalkeepers in the history of our program,” said head coach Steve Swanson. “When she first arrived at Virginia, her work ethic, confidence and commitment to the program did not match her talent. She literally spent that first season learning what it takes to compete at the Division I level.
“Maren also did an outstanding job mentoring her and by the end of her first year, Christina improved dramatically. She won the starting role in 2004, and she literally has never looked back. I do not think her first year as a starter she got as much credit as she deserved since we had such a strong and experienced back line, but last season she really burst onto the scene.”
When de Vries arrived at Virginia three seasons ago, she was backing up senior goalkeeper Anne Abernethy. Although she didn’t get much game experience, the time spent in practice helped her prepare for the following season when she became the starter.
“I needed that year, to become more physically and mentally tough,” said de Vries. “It was a tough transition, but the high level of training every day certainly helped me improve my game.”
In 2004, de Vries took over the starting position and made an immediate impact in the Cavaliers’ record-setting season. For her efforts, De Vries was named an all-ACC selection and selected Co-MVP of the ACC Tournament after her save in the penalty kick shootout against North Carolina, clinching the Cavaliers’ first-ever conference crown.
“I had a great opportunity that season to come in and become the starter,” said de Vries. “I had four senior defenders in front of me that gave me a lot of confidence. I knew I had to step up my game, and the confidence I gained was the key to that success.”
Last year, de Vries had her role in the back change. She had gone from being the first-time starter playing with four senior defenders to being the veteran of the defense with a completely new back line, including three first-years, in front of her.
“I became a leader last year,” said de Vries. “It was my responsibility to organize the defense. I had to be a voice in the back. Communication was even more important as we were learning to play as a group. Having (defender) Becky (Sauerbrunn) there helped a lot with organization in the back. As the season went on, we became more and more comfortable as a unit, and that made us even more confident.”
The new defensive unit proved successful, as the Cavaliers were once again one of the top defensive teams in the nation. The 2005 team tied school records with 14 shutouts and 18 wins, as the `Hoos reached the quarterfinals of the NCAA Tournament.
This season, with the entire back line returning, de Vries looks to have another successful season during her senior year.
“I think we are a confident team heading into the season,” she said. “We know it will be a tough season, but last spring we really came together as a team. That is a good base to come into the season on, and we are looking to continue to improve as the season progresses.”
An experienced goalkeeper is a great asset to any soccer team, and Christina de Vries is one reason why optimism is high for the 2006 version of the Cavaliers.