Aug. 22, 2014
By Jeff White (firstname.lastname@example.org)
CHARLOTTESVILLE — Makenzy Doniak, representing the United States in FIFA’s Under-20 Women’s World Cup, played Saturday night at the National Soccer Stadium in Toronto.
Two nights later, at Klöckner Stadium, she watched as her UVa teammates closed the preseason with a 5-0 rout of VCU.
“I thought we moved the ball really well,” Doniak recalled Tuesday. “I think what really impressed me was the potential that we have to grow. I think we have a lot of good players that came in who can definitely make a difference on this team, and I think our potential is pretty high.”
As much as she might have enjoyed seeing the Cavaliers from a different perspective, one game on the sideline was enough for Doniak, a junior forward from Chino Hills, Calif. Third-ranked Virginia opens the season Friday at 7 p.m. at Marshall at Klöckner, and she hopes to be more than a spectator.
“It might be a little soon, but I really want to get out there,” said Doniak, who missed the Wahoos’ training camp in Michigan early this month because of her national-team obligations.
The U-20 Women’s World Cup concludes Sunday night in Montreal with the championship game at Olympic Stadium. Doniak would rather be in Canada this weekend, playing for a gold medal, than on Grounds, but North Korea eliminated the United States on penalty kicks in the quarterfinals last weekend in Toronto.
“It’s definitely bittersweet, because obviously I wanted to go all the way,” Doniak said. “That was my No. 1 goal, to win. But it’s not a bad situation to come back, because now I get to be with the team. I get to meet everyone. All the new girls, I hadn’t really met all of them yet. And it was great to actually get to see them play [against VCU] and then hopefully play on Friday with them.”
Doniak’s coach at UVa, Steve Swanson, was head coach of the U.S. team that won the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in Japan two summers ago, and he understands her disappointment.
“Mak is a big part of the 20s, and it’s unfortunate any time you lose in penalties,” Swanson said. “I guess the silver lining for us is we get Mak back [before the opener], and it’s not as crazy coming into the new semester as it could have been.”
Classes start Tuesday at the University.
“We wish she would have gone all the way, there’s no question, but the good news is she’s back with us,” Swanson said. “She didn’t miss as much as she could have. I don’t think it’ll take her too long [to get up to speed].
“The good thing about Mak is she’s got a lot of experience under her belt already. I think it’s just a matter of getting her back on the pitch with some of the players. A lot of the stuff that we’ve been doing over preseason should be review for the more experienced players.”
The U.S. team played four games in Canada, the first two in Edmonton. After losing 2-0 to Germany, the United States edged Brazil 1-0. The Americans finished group play with a 3-0 rout of China in Moncton, but then were ousted by North Korea in the quarterfinals.
Doniak started against North Korea and scored the U.S.’s only goal before the game went to penalty kicks.
Her World Cup experience “was unbelievable,” said Doniak, who has also represented the United States at the U-14, U-15 and U-18 levels. “I think I grew a lot from it. It was incredible. Every step.”
Doniak, who turns 21 in February, has completed her stint with the U-20 team. She hopes to move up to the U-23 team and, eventually, the senior national squad. For now, though, she’s focused on her third season at UVa.
In 2013, Doniak tied UVa teammate Morgan Brian for the ACC scoring title — each finished with 46 points — and, like Brian, was named a first-team All-American.
Doniak’s 20 goals tied Virginia’s single-season record. For her career, she has 30 goals and 14 assists.
“I think she’s developed an awful lot from her first year to her second year, not just in the goal production but in the way she played,” Swanson said.
“The challenge for Mak is, she’s not going to be an unknown commodity [this fall]. People are going to know about her, they’re going to set up their defense to stop her. This is the next step in her evolution: `What can I do now within our style to continue to create chances for myself and for others, even though I may be double-teamed?’ ”
Doniak, who stands 5-8, said she wants to improve technically while creating more chances for her teammates.
“Yeah, I can score goals, but can I help other girls score goals?” Doniak said.
Swanson said: “The biggest thing that I see for the next level, which I think this whole World Cup experience has helped with, is how she creates chances and sets up her teammates without relying solely on her athleticism. She’s such a good athlete and such a physical presence out there that I think in the past she might have been able to get away with that.”
The U-20 World Cup reminded Doniak that she can’t always count on simply running past opponents. “She saw, `I’ve got to be a little more sophisticated as a soccer player,’ and I think she’s doing that,” Swanson said.
UVa is coming off the greatest season in program history. The `Hoos, who finished with a 24-1-1 record, didn’t lose until the ACC tournament. They bounced back from that defeat to advance to the College Cup, where UCLA eliminated them on penalty kicks in the NCAA semifinals.
Doniak’s objective this fall?
“Keep it going,” she said. “Individually, I’m not worried about any stats. It’s all about the team. Anything I can do for the team, that’s my goal.”
The journey officially starts Friday night at Klöckner. Don’t be surprised if Swanson grants Doniak’s wish.
“We just have to be smart in easing her back in,” he said, “but I envision as long as she’s feeling good we’ll get her a few minutes.”