This week the Virginia women’s soccer team opens its regular season schedule as the No. 11 Cavaliers visit No. 6 Penn State Friday night. Virginiasports.com caught up with goalkeeper Chantel Jones to review the team’s preseason training camp and preview the start of the season.
Question: The team went to Michigan for a week of training camp again this season. How did the camp go?
Jones: It was different. We have so many new people that there was a lot of focus on integrating them into our team. We got a lot of training and conditioning in, especially conditioning on the dunes. Overall it was fun and I think we made some big strides.
Question: Is going away for camp even more beneficial when you have so many new players?
Jones: It is crucial. We lost our entire starting defense from last year and a lot of the first-years are defenders, so we have to work on having that gel. I think we did a good job and you could see the improvement each day of camp.
Question: You missed last season due to competing at the U-20 World Cup. Two years ago, you were a rookie goalkeeper with a veteran defense in front of you. Now, you are a veteran goalkeeper with a new defense in front of you. How has this year been different for you?
Jones: It is tough, but I am willing to step up. I have always been hungry for new challenges and I love competition. Just being able to come in and have brand new figurative ball of clay to mold into my defense is exciting.
Question: Last week, you played two exhibitions against two strong Big East teams in Notre Dame and Georgetown. What did you take away from those games?
Jones: The most important thing coach Swanson told us not to worry about the score. It was a chance to see where we were as a team, especially our defense. Defense was a big focus during the preseason. Those exhibitions gave us a chance to see the little things that don’t show up in the final score like balls over the top, our shape, and transitioning into the attack.
Question: You open the season Friday at Penn State. It is a strong test to open the season, playing a ranked team on the road. What are you expecting?
Jones: It is definitely exciting. It is important for us to work on improving throughout the non-conference schedule so that we are ready when the ACC season starts. It is an opportunity to take the things we learned against Notre Dame and Georgetown and keep building.
Question: Does playing a non-conference schedule against teams like Penn State, West Virginia, Arizona and Arizona State get you ready for playing in the ACC?
Jones: For sure. Those games will compare to what we will see game-in and game-out in the ACC. The ACC is the best conference in the nation and you need to test yourself in the non-conference part of the schedule to be ready for the conference games.