By Jeff White (firstname.lastname@example.org)
CHARLOTTESVILLE — Forget the NCAA tournament. After losing to second-ranked North Carolina on Oct. 17, the UVa women’s soccer team was in danger of missing the ACC tourney.
Since that loss in Chapel Hill, however, the Cavaliers have gone 3-0-1, and they’re almost certainly headed to the NCAAs for the 16th consecutive season.
“I think we’re in a good position,” Virginia coach Steve Swanson said, “but we’d like to solidify our position.”
The ACC tournament represents an opportunity for the Wahoos (4-4-2, 9-5-4) to do so. They’re seeded No. 7, and they meet second-seeded Boston College (7-2-1, 15-2-1) at 5 p.m. Wednesday in Cary, N.C.
“Our whole team wants to do well, so we have that pressure,” junior midfielder Sinead Farrelly said Tuesday at University Hall, “but I think everyone’s more excited than nervous. Everyone knows that we have the potential, so that’s our motivation, that we know we can win.”
Six days before their loss to UNC, the ‘Hoos played BC in Newton, Mass. The Eagles prevailed 1-0 in overtime, but it was not a wasted experience for UVa, according to Farrelly.
“That was when I think we started to play better as a team,” she said. “Even though we lost in overtime, we knew we were the better team. So starting from then it was kind of like, ‘We know we can beat anyone. We just have to get the result.'”
Virginia defeated Duke on Oct. 22 and then tied fifth-ranked Wake Forest in Winston-Salem, N.C.
The breakthrough came Oct. 30, when the Cavaliers upset fourth-ranked Florida State at Klöckner Stadium. Two days later, they whipped Miami 2-0, and they were ACC tournament-bound.
“It was nice for us to break through, and I think we’re in a good position,” Swanson said, “in that I feel there’s a lot of confidence in the team and how we’ve been playing.
“I still feel our best soccer is in front of us, and that’s a good feeling heading into the postseason.”
After 10 games, UVa was 6-1-3. Goals weren’t coming easily for the ‘Hoos, but they were avoiding losses, at least. That trend ended during a brutal stretch in which Virginia went 1-4-1.
“That was the most frustrating part, I guess, out of the three years I’ve been here,” Farrelly said. “But the fact that we’re in and we got the job done at the end, it kind of takes all that frustration.
Swanson praised his veterans for holding the team together when the season looked to be slipping away. Those players include Farrelly, who on Tuesday was named to the all-ACC first team for the third time.
Only five other Cavaliers have been so honored: Tracey Kennedy (1987, 89-90), Amanda Cromwell (1988-91), Angela Hucles (1996-99), Lori Lindsey (1999-2001) and Sarah Huffman (2003-05).
Farrelly, who’s from Havertown, Pa., is tied for first in scoring at UVa this season with 20 points, on seven goals and six assists, all career highs. She also was named ACC player of the week Tuesday.
Against FSU, she scored the game’s only goal. She scored the game-winner against Miami, too.
“Everybody that’s on the team understands what a talent Sinead is,” Swanson said. “I feel she’s the best player in the country, and there’s nobody else I’ve seen that can do the things she can do. She has incredible feet, and she’s gifted athletically, gifted technically.
“She’s a very humble person, and we had to work hard to get her to take more responsibility and look for more responsibility. The great thing about Sinead is, as good a player as she is, she really fits in with the team, and with her it’s all about the team.
“I’m just glad she’s on our team.”
Farrelly said she believes the ‘Hoos are stronger for having faced — and, ultimately, having overcome — obstacles during the regular season.
“You have to look at the positives,” he said, “and as much as we scratched and clawed to get back to where we are, I think now we know more about ourselves going forward.”