By Jeff White (email@example.com)
CHARLOTTESVILLE — While the top-ranked UVa women’s soccer team was setting a school record Thursday night at Klöckner Stadium, two other top-5 teams, Florida State and Virginia Tech, were battling down the road in Blacksburg.
The Cavaliers will be seeing both of those foes soon, in highly anticipated games that could eclipse Notre Dame’s recent visit to Klöckner.
The Fighting Irish were ranked No. 5 nationally when they came to town Oct. 10, and on a cold, rainy night, UVa beat them 3-2 in double overtime. In the latest NSCAA rankings, Florida State is No. 3 and Virginia Tech is No 4.
FSU edged Tech 2-1 on Thursday night. The Seminoles (14-0-3 overall, 9-0-2 ACC) play Sunday at 2 p.m. at Klöckner. The Wahoos close the regular season at home again the Hokies (13-2-2, 8-2-1) next Thursday night.
“We love a challenge,” senior forward Gloria Douglas said after Virginia hammered Miami 4-0 to remain the nation’s only unbeaten and untied team.
The `Hoos improved to 17-0 overall and 10-0 in ACC play. The 17 consecutive victories are a record for UVa, which opened the 1990 season with 16 straight wins.
Virginia coach Steve Swanson brought up the record with his players Thursday before the game.
“We knew that tonight we wanted to make history,” junior midfielder Morgan Brian said, “and I think with these girls and this team, it’s what we wanted to do. Steve was really proud of that. It’s not really one of our goals, but we do take pride in it.”
Brian, who played Sunday for the U.S. national team, took a pass from sophomore defender Emily Sonnett and dribbled past Miami goalie Emily Lillard in the 24th minute to put Virginia ahead to stay.
Senior defender Molly Menchel, sophomore forward Makenzy Doniak and senior forward Amber Fry added a goal apiece, and Sonnett and freshman midfielder Alexis Shaffer finished with two assists each. Freshman forward Morgan Reuther also had an assist for the Cavaliers, who outshot the Hurricanes 28-3. UVa fans gave a Bronx cheer in the 69th minute when the `Canes (8-7-1, 3-7-1) finally took their first shot.
Four goals were more than enough against a Miami team that has struggled since upsetting Notre Dame on Oct. 6, but the `Hoos weren’t satisfied with their offensive performance.
“I think on Sunday we’re going to have to finish our chances a little better,” Brian said.
“We’ve got to do a little better job of finishing games out earlier than we do,” he said. “For as many chances as we had tonight, and we had some really, really good chances, we didn’t even get some of those on frame. We’ve got to be much more consistent.
“You can’t look at it and say you’re not satisfied with the result, but we’ve got to do better with those chances, because we may not have as many chances in games against other teams. I think that’s something we’ve got to be careful of down the road. But I thought at times tonight our quality of play was quite good. We moved the ball quite well. The ideas were there. We had some really good ideas and some really good movement off the ball.”
The Cavaliers have been ranked No. 1 since the middle of last month. If Swanson worried that the ranking might be a burden for his team, his concerns soon vanished.
“They’re very focused,” Swanson said. “I’ve said all along, they get it, and they’re very mature in the way they handle themselves. I think they’re very mature in that they realize we’ve got a lot of goals still out there. There’s nothing really that we’ve accomplished yet, and that spurs us all on.
“I think they’ve handled it tremendously. We don’t talk about it. We’re always preparing for the next game, and we really try to manage that way.”
A victory or tie Sunday would clinch the first ACC regular-season title for the Cavaliers, who won the conference tournament last fall. Oct. 27 is the latest in a regular season that two undefeated teams have met. (Penn State and Portland were unbeaten in 2005 were they collided in the NCAA semifinals.)
“Playing Florida State is always a great game,” Brian said. “They play a lot of the same kind of soccer we play, and the coaches are kind of similar. I think it’s going to be one of the best college soccer games in a long time, so it’s a good game to come watch.”
Despite the miserable conditions that night, the Notre Dame game drew 2,838 fans, a record for a women’s soccer game at Klöckner.
“Part of our success, for sure, is because of the atmosphere here,” Swanson said. “I think our players love playing in it, and I think there’s a chemistry, not just between our players, but there’s a chemistry between the fans and the team. You can sense that.”
Crisp fall weather is expected for the FSU game, and Swanson hopes UVa fans will turn out in force again.
“We’ll need their presence for sure on Sunday,” he said.