By Jeff White (firstname.lastname@example.org)
CHARLOTTESVILLE — In a showdown between teams ranked in the top 10 of Soccer America’s preseason women’s poll, No. 7 UVa romped Sunday afternoon at Klöckner Stadium.
No. 9 Santa Clara stumbled, but the Cavaliers had a lot to do with that.
“I thought we played good soccer today,” Virginia coach Steve Swanson said after his team’s 4-0 rout of Santa Clara in the final game of the inaugural Klöckner Classic, an event that also included No. 1 North Carolina and VCU.
The Cavaliers (2-0) totaled 18 shots to three for the Broncos (0-2), who put only one of those attempts on goal. Santa Clara, which lost 2-0 Friday to defending NCAA champion UNC, didn’t get off a shot until the 58th minute Sunday.
“I felt we came out with a good mentality,” Swanson said. “I thought we did some really good things in terms of moving the ball. We wanted to dictate the tempo. They’re a pretty good team with the ball, and I thought we needed to handle the tempo, and I thought we did that.”
Brittany Ratcliffe led the Wahoos with two goals in her 49 minutes off the bench Sunday. The sophomore forward from Williamstown, N.J., also scored a goal Friday night in UVa’s season-opening 4-2 win over VCU.
For defending ACC champion UVa, its biggest loss from 2012 was forward Caroline Miller, who scored a school-record 20 goals and made the All-America first team.
Swanson expressed confidence before the season that the `Hoos could collectively replace Miller’s scoring, and that’s been the case to date. Through two games, six Cavaliers have at least one goal each — Ratcliffe, Doniak, Brian, sophomore defender Emily Sonnett, senior defender Molly Menchel and junior midfielder Danielle Colaprico.
Doniak was second on the team with 10 goals last season, so her production is no revelation. Ratcliffe, however, had no goals and only one assist in 2012.
“We always knew what a talent she was,” Swanson said. “I think she needed a little bit of transition last year in the fall, but ever since January she’s been getting better and better and better. She had a great spring for us, and she was really impactful [during UVa’s May trip to] England, too.
“Besides the goals, I think she’s doing a lot of good things on the field in terms of handling pressure and just making good runs at the right time, and being dangerous, which we need her to do.”
Ratcliffe was one of four Cavaliers named to the all-tournament team, along with Brian, Sonnett and senior Annie Steinlage.
A transfer from Michigan State, where she made the All-Big Ten first team as a defender in 2011 and ’12, Steinlage struggled at times in the spring after enrolling at UVa in January.
Swanson went into the summer unsure of what her role would be this fall, but Steinlage “had a really good preseason,” he said. “She’s in a much better place than she was. To be fair to her, it was difficult for her. It was difficult coming in midyear, with the demands of the academics and then the soccer. I think she’s come back really fit, and we made the decision, given where we are, to push her into that role. She’s done a great job.”
Steinlage started UVa’s two games at defensive midfielder, and she’ll continue in that role.
“It’s a good position for her, I feel,” Swanson said. “I think it takes advantage of most of her strengths.”
New to UVa’s starting lineup Sunday was goalkeeper Morgan Stearns, a heralded freshman from San Antonio, Texas. Stearns, a member of the United States’ under-20 team, took over in goal for junior Danielle DeLisle, who started 22 games last season and the opener Friday night.
“It was a tough call,” Swanson said. “We’ve got a good competitive race going on for the goalkeeping position. All four of them, actually, have good strengths, and they each bring a little bit of a different skill set.
“Morgan’s been a little bit banged up from the under-20s, so we had to be careful with her this preseason. Credit to our defense today. I thought they made it a little bit easier for Morgan in terms of her job. But we have great confidence in Churchill and Danielle and Jessie if we need to go there too.”
That the coaching staff has great confidence in the woman wearing the No. 6 jersey goes without saying. Brian has already earned one cap with the national team, and she’s been named to the United States roster for the Sept. 3 friendly with Mexico at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C.
Brian will play in UVa’s next two games — Friday against No. 2 Penn State and next Sunday against Richmond — and then join the national team in the D.C. area.
“It’s the best of both worlds for her,” Swanson said.
At this time last year, Swanson and Brian were in Japan for FIFA’s under-20 Women’s World Cup. Swanson was head coach of the U.S. team, which would win the gold medal, and Brian was one of its best players.
A first-team All-American as a freshman in 2011, Brian didn’t make her debut for Virginia last year until its 10th game, and she didn’t score a goal until the ACC tournament. Already this season she has three assists and a goal.
“I feel a lot better,” Brian said Sunday. “Coming back in the middle of the season last time was a little hard, and getting so behind in school and all that kind of stuff.”
This year, she said, “I had a good preseason with the team, and I’m feeling like myself again, and hopefully I can keep contributing like that.”
The UVa-Penn State game (5:30 start) will be part of a Friday night doubleheader at Klöckner. The Virginia men, No. 14 in the preseason Top Drawer Soccer rankings, open against No. 8 Louisville at 8 o’clock. One ticket is good for admission to both games.
“It is good to have a couple of games under our belt, and we have some momentum from this weekend,” Swanson said. “It is still early in the season, and there are areas where we need to improve, but Penn State will be another good test to see where we are as a team.”