Nikki Krzysik is a junior defender on the Virginia women’s soccer team from Clifton, N.J. This season, she has been part of a defensive unit that is leading the nation with a 0.25 goals against average. On Thursday at 7 p.m., she and the third-ranked Cavaliers play their final regular season home game against Maryland.
Question: The defense has put up some impressive numbers this season, leading the nation in goals against average. What has been the key to this success?
Krzysik: This is our third year of playing together as a group. We know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. We can read each other well and we have a better understanding of where we need to be and how we are as a whole.
Question: For as much as the backline has stayed the same over the past few years, you did need to adjust to having a new goalkeeper, Chantel Jones, starting this season. How has that transition gone?
Krzysik: Chantel fit right in and didn’t miss a beat. There a couple of things we still need to work on as a defensive unit. It helped that she redshirted last year. We had her last fall, in the spring, and in practice we had a chance to play with her. She has fit in perfectly.
Question: Over your first two seasons, you had a combined two assists. This year you are fifth on the team in scoring with two goals and three assists. What has been the difference for you this season offensively?
Krzysik: In the offseason I worked on crossing and finishing. I tried to work on things so that I could help the team on both sides of the ball. I think playing midfield a little in the early part of the season helped me get more involved offensively.
Question: When you take the field against Maryland on Thursday, it will be a week since you last played, the longest break of the season. How is the team using the time off to prepare for the final part of the season?
Krzysik: The most important thing we have been doing is resting. We had a stretch with a lot of games and training over the last few weeks. This week we have had a chance to do some conditioning work. Overall, we are working getting the rest that we need to have a good push at the end of the season.
Question: Maryland is the last home game of the regular season. You have not lost at home this season. What has been the key to the success at Klckner this year?
Krzysik: The support that we get. We love to go out and play in front of all the people that support us. We try to put on a good show for them. Hopefully it will continue and we will get a good crowd Thursday.
Question: With three regular season games left, what is the team’s mindset heading into the final part of the season and into the postseason.
Krzysik: From the beginning, our focus has been to stay together. We are taking it one game at a time. We want to go out there and compete for each other. I think we have done a great job so far this season so we need to keep that going.