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The No. 14 Virginia women’s soccer team opens ACC play this week, hosting No. 6 Maryland on Thursday at 7 p.m., and visiting No. 18 Boston College on Sunday. Virginiasports.com talked to senior defender Amanda Fancher to discuss the beginning of the season and the start of ACC play.

Question: After winning the first six games of the season, you had a disappointing weekend with the scoreless draw against Washington State and the loss to Penn State. What can you learn from those games?

Fancher: With any game, whether you win, and especially when you lose, you have to learn from it. We have to look at the mistakes we made and make sure we don’t make them again. There are certainly some things we did this weekend that we can improve on and we need make those adjustments as we start the ACC season.

Question: The team has a lot of first years playing significant minutes this year. How have you been able to integrate them into the team so quickly?

Fancher: We have put a lot of work into building team unity and making sure everyone is on the same page. With as many new players as we have, and the injuries we have had this season, it has been important to make sure we are a cohesive group out there. We try to focus on everyone knowing their role and focusing on what they need to do to help the team succeed.

Question: As a defender, what has changed for you this season due to the graduation and injuries of players who played a lot of the minutes on defense last season?

Fancher: It has been a little stressful. I have never been on a team that has had so many injuries. As a fourth-year, I have tried to take more of a leadership role. With the loss of so many players, there are a lot of opportunities for other players, and the first-years, to step up and play a bigger role. We have tried to help them make that transition go as smoothly as possible.

Question: The ACC season begins this week and almost every team in the conference is nationally ranked. What are the challenges of playing in this conference?

Fancher: The ACC is great conference. You know every time you take the field you are going to get somebody’s best effort and you have to raise your level too. You also know the teams a little better. We have played all these teams so many times. We know what to expect, how they like to play, what their players like to do. In that way, it’s easier to prepare for each game than in the non-conference when you are playing teams you have never played before. You need to just prepare for the grind, because in the ACC there is never a game that you can take lightly.

Question: You play Maryland on Thursday to open ACC play. You have had some great games with them in recent years, as two of the last three have gone to overtime. What are you expecting on Thursday?

Fancher: Maryland is always a tough team and they are ranked in the top 10 right now. They haven’t lost this season, so they have a lot of momentum. We are looking to come back after the Penn State game. Whenever we play them, it is an exciting game and I am sure that will be the case again this year.

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