The Virginia women’s soccer team opens ACC play on Thursday at in-state rival Virginia Tech. The Cavaliers (6-1-1) are looking to bounce back from their first loss of the season, a 1-0 setback at West Virginia. Virginiasports.com talked to senior midfielder Colleen Flanagan to discuss the non-conference portion of the schedule and preview the ACC season.
Question: You had a tough loss against West Virginia on Sunday, your first loss of the season. What can you take away from that game to build upon as the season progresses?
Flanagan: It’s definitely a building block for us with it being the first loss. We need to capitalize on our chances and, defensively, clear the ball better when we are defending corner kicks or set plays. These are things we hadn’t really had to worry about too much because we have been finishing so well and had so many shutouts. To have those things be problems in that loss, it was a humbling experience. But it gives us things to work on to get better.
Question: Up until West Virginia, the team had been scoring a lot. The team is still fifth in the nation is goals per game. What do you think the difference is this year in terms of the offensive output compared to years past?
Flanagan: We have experience up front, and that makes a huge difference. We have players that have been playing three or four years together now. They know each other well enough to create a lot of chances and have been doing a good job of putting the ball in the back of the net.
Question: This week starts ACC play, which is always a challenge. What have you taken away from your first three years of playing in the ACC? What are the lessons that you are trying to instill in the younger players who may not have as much experience playing at that level?
Flanagan: Every game is going to be a challenge; there is no easy game. Every team is capable of beating every other team on a given night. You are going to have to come out 100 percent each and every time. You will have teams that are going to play their best against you because it’s the ACC and everyone wants to be on top.
Question: The team opens up with Virginia Tech on the road on Thursday, a team you have lost to in each of the last two years. What do you need to do to change that trend?
Flanagan: We don’t want to repeat what we have done in past years. We are focused to go out and play our best, and not make the mistakes that have cost us. Coming off the loss to West Virginia, I think we are ready for this game.
Question: Last year the team struggled early on in the ACC, and ended up facing some must win games towards the end. As you start the ACC season, how important is it to get off to a strong start and not have to go through that again?
Flanagan: If you can start off well, it makes the end much easier. The pressure is always on, but last year we had to win the games that we had to win. Sometimes that’s a good thing because your back is against the wall, but it’s easier when you are able to settle down and play your game. Hopefully we can get off to a good start and not put ourselves in a difficult situation towards the end.
Question: Do you think you have learned anything from that experience last year that helped you this year?
Flanagan: Absolutely. What we went through last year we used as motivation as we went through our spring training. We came out with the idea that we can do this, that we have the talent to be a top contender in the ACC.