The Virginia women’s soccer team opens play in the 2007 NCAA Tournament Friday as it plays host to Loyola (Md.) at 5 p.m. at Klckner Stadium. Virginiasports.com caught up with head coach Steve Swanson for a preview of this weekend’s action at Klckner Stadium.
Question: Last season, the team didn’t have a home game in the NCAA Tournament. How big of an advantage is it to get to play at home this weekend?
Swanson: Considering the success we have had here, I think it is a significant factor. We know our field, obviously, and we feel comfortable and confident on it. Another aspect is the fans. We have always had such good support here and we are hoping to draw some more big crowds this weekend. I think the most important reason is that we have been on the road so much the past three weeks. The chance to come home and not have to travel and sleep in your own bed will play an important role for us to be rested going into Friday.
Question: You mention rest. How does having week between your last game at the ACC Tournament and your first NCAA Tournament game help your preparation?
Swanson: The best part for us about the rest is that a lot of times in a tournament setting, the team that is rested and has their legs has an advantage. I feel good from that perspective. We have also had an opportunity to fine tune some things in practice, which we might not have had a chance to do if we had played three games in five days at the ACC Tournament. If we had played through Sunday there, we likely would have had to take Monday and Tuesday off and that would have limited some of our preparation for Friday. Another factor is I think we are as healthy as we have been in a long time. That, along with being rested, are key ingredients for us to have a successful tournament.
Question: Both of the games in ACC Tournament were 110 minute games. Does the extra rest help even more after playing so much soccer last week?
Swanson: That is a factor as well. It seems like overtimes have been par for the course for us this season. I think that has helped us as well. We had some experiences in the ACC Tournament that will help us as we prepare for the NCAA Tournament.
Question: The team has had some disappointing results over the past few weeks. What is needed to turn things around and get back on the winning track?
Swanson: You have to be careful that you don’t press too much. There is a fine line between putting your best effort forward, both physically and mentally, and forcing things or trying too hard. We have been unfortunate in some of our results the last several weeks, but I don’t think it has shaken our faith in where we are as a team. In the case of Boston College, they had seven days to prepare before we played up there. The next game at UNC, they had eight days to rest before we went there. But those are good teams we are playing. It is not like we are playing poor teams. They are still games we think we still could have and should have won. But hopefully we can learn and improve for them. I think all we need is a little bit of momentum and we are working hard to establish that on Friday.
Question: The ACC led all conferences with eight teams selected to the tournament. What does that say about the strength of the league?
Swanson: It should say something to all the other people out there. It isn’t something that any of the coaches in the ACC didn’t already know. I think it is a very competitive conference and look at the results this year and you see how all close the teams are. All the teams that made the tournament deserved to be there and there could have been an argument for one more to get in too. It is a reflection of the caliber of the conference and in some ways how we played out of the conference. It will be interesting to see how well our league prepared us for the NCAA Tournament. If you look at last year, the ACC schedule was so challenging and you saw the significance of that as the NCAA Tournament went along and the success the ACC had in it.
Question: You open with Loyola on Friday, a team that Virginia hasn’t played in 10 years. What is the preparation for the matchup?
Swanson: Any team that makes the NCAA Tournament is a very worthy opponent. The one thing you have to be careful of is still concentrating on your team and fine tuning them rather than focusing completely on your opponent. We are finding out information on Loyola, like we do for all our opponents all year. Right now we are focusing on our team and will begin to start turning our attention to Loyola more towards the end of the week.
Question: What can fans expect to see at Klckner this weekend when they come to the tournament games?
Swanson: There will be two very exciting games on Friday. All four teams have had excellent years and anybody is capable of beating anyone else on any particular day. There will be a lot of very good soccer out there. William & Mary and Georgetown have both had great years and will be a very competitive matchup. Georgetown will be excited about making its first ever NCAA appearance. Loyola has had a successful year and had some good results against ACC teams earlier in the season. It will be a very competitive bracket and the fans can expect a great weekend of soccer.
Question: Does it also help the atmosphere that all four teams are local?
Swanson: That will help for sure. There are some good rivalries between some of the teams and that will help with the drama of the tournament.