By Jeff White (firstname.lastname@example.org)
CHARLOTTESVILLE — Chantel Jones spent most of the game by herself, watching the action unfold at the other end of Klöckner Stadium. In 90 minutes against Drexel, Virginia’s veteran goalie faced no shots.
Yes, it was boring at her end, Jones acknowledged later. “But I like being bored,” she added with a smile. “I’m fine with being bored.”
UVa drubbed Drexel 4-0 in women’s soccer on that Sunday afternoon, and such outcomes have been common for 12th-year coach Steve Swanson’s team this season. The seventh-ranked Cavaliers have nearly as many goals (26) as their opponents have shots (27).
The Wahoos (6-0) have allowed only three goals, and they’re off to their best start since 2004, when they won their first nine games.
“In terms of the results, obviously, you can’t be better than we are right now, which is good,” Swanson said after the Drexel game. “But I still feel strongly that we’re a work in progress. It’s one thing to look at the results and only the results, but when you look at the performances, I think we’ve been inconsistent.
“Obviously, I think we’re capable of scoring goals against anybody, so that’s something that we can take confidence in. But at times, like I said, we’ve had these lulls, and we haven’t been as sharp. We’ve kind of lost the rhythm at times in games, and better teams, they might punish you for that. The other thing is, defensively I feel like we’ve just been leaking some goals. We’ve given up some soft goals this year.”
UVa opens ACC play Sept. 15 against Maryland at Klöckner. First, however, comes the Virginia Nike Soccer Classic, in which Swanson’s team will play twice.
Virginia hosts Washington State (4-1) at 7 p.m. Friday. UVa meets Penn State (5-1) at 2 p.m. Sunday in a game that will be webcast on VirginiaSports.com.
The other games in this event: Penn State-Central Florida (2-2-1) at 4:30 p.m. Friday, and UCF-Wazzu at 11 a.m. Sunday. All games are at Klöckner.
The ‘Hoos will be close to full strength this weekend. Junior Kate Norbo is out with a knee injury, but another midfielder, freshman Morgan Brian, is available.
Widely considered the No. 1 recruit in the Class of 2011, Brian sat out the Drexel game as a precaution. “She’s got a little tweak in the muscle,” Swanson said, “and we just didn’t want to take a chance with it, with the games we have coming up.”
Brian is among the six Cavaliers who have scored at least two goals this season. Brian and sophomore Molly Menchel have two apiece, junior Julia Roberts, sophomore Gloria Douglas and freshman Danielle Colaprico have three each, and junior Caroline Miller leads the ‘Hoos with six.
Seven other UVa players have one goal apiece.
“It’s great when you have almost everyone on your roster scoring goals,” said Jones, a sixth-year senior. “You can’t scout a team where everyone scores. You can’t pick out a couple people and say, ‘We have to watch out for them.’ You have to watch out for our whole team.”
Miller, a forward from Rockville, totaled 18 points as a freshman in 2009, on six goals and six assists.
She was putting together another strong season in 2010 when she suffered a knee injury in game No. 10. After missing seven games, she returned for the final five but never regained her pre-injury form. Miller finished the season with four goals and two assists.
“It’s nice to have that whole thing in the past and be 100 percent again,” she said.
Miller’s growth into a more well-rounded player particularly pleases Swanson.
“We’ve always known that she can score,” he said. “She’s very creative, and she’s a very unusual forward in that she can make something out of nothing in and around the box. But I think it’s been further up the field where her decisions are better, and her linking play has been better, and that’s important for us, because I think we’re a building, linking, possession-oriented team. I think she’s made a lot of strides in that area, and we’ll need that to continue.”
A season ago, Virginia finished 15-5-2 after losing in the NCAA tourmanet’s third round. Seniors on that team included All-American midfielder Sinead Farrelly and second-team All-ACC forward Meghan Lenczyk, but a precocious first-year class led by Brian has helped the ‘Hoos deal with the loss of those stars.
“I think we all just play really well together,” Miller said. “We’re still learning, but we’ve all really come together, and we’ve just really been connecting, and we’ve got a lot of chemistry.”
Asked how this team differs from the first two she played on at UVa, Miller said, “Honestly, I don’t know. I can’t even explain it. It’s just different. It is. There’s just so much chemistry. I don’t think we’ve ever had this much chemistry within our team before, so things are just really flowing.”