By Jeff White (

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — The splendor of Italy in the spring awaits the University of Virginia women’s soccer team, which will visit Rome, Florence and Como and play three matches during a tour that starts this week.

Missing from the Cavaliers’ traveling party, however, are two of the team’s most talented players: rising sophomores Maggie Cagle and Jill Flammia. They’re out of the country, too, but they’re in the Dominican Republic, not Europe.

Cagle and Flammia have good reasons for missing the Wahoos’ tour. They’re representing the United States at the Concacaf U-20 Women’s Championship.

In Santo Domingo, the capital city of the Dominican Republic, the U.S. will play Panama at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Jamaica at 6 p.m. Friday, and Canada at 6 p.m. Sunday. The first match will air on FS1; the next two on FS2.

“It’s just crazy how that all worked out,” UVA head coach Steve Swanson said. “Obviously, it’s disappointing. We’d love to have them with us, but we support them. I’m sure they would love to be with us, but [the Concacaf tournament] just happened to fall on exactly the same time as our trip.”

The opportunity to play for the national team was too good to pass up, Cagle said, but “since we’re so close with our UVA teammates, it was just sad that we weren’t able to experience Italy with them.”

Swanson is a former head coach of the United States U-20 Women’s National Team, and as an assistant coach he helped the U.S. Women’s National Team win World Cup titles in 2015 and 2019. He encourages his players to pursue opportunities with national teams, and Cagle and Flammia have been to camps and tournaments at various levels in the U.S. sytem, including U-14, U-16, U-18 and, now, U-20.

“We support them 100 percent,” Swanson said. “We’re excited for them. It’s not easy to make these rosters for either qualifying or World Cups, so we’re proud of them and wish them all the best.”

Maggie Cagle

Cagle, a 5-foot-5 forward, and Flammia, a 5-foot-4 midfielder, were named to the ACC’s All-Freshman Team last fall, when Virginia advanced to the NCAA quarterfinals.

“I thought they came in and did a great job,” Swanson said. “We knew certainly how technical and skillful they were, but I think we all were surprised just at how comfortable they are in this environment and how much of an impact they made at this level already as first-years.

“You wouldn’t have thought, ‘Wow, these are first-years.’ They’re both really sophisticated, smart players. I think they gave us something on both sides of the ball, but certainly there’s an element of creativity and there’s an element of unpredictability that they gave us on attack. It was a major piece in our success last year.”

Cagle, who enrolled at UVA in January 2022, also made the All-ACC third team. She played in all 23 games and finished with four goals and a team-high 12 assists. Her role grew after Virginia lost All-ACC forward Rebecca Jarrett to an injury midway through the season.

“I think Maggie impacted our program right from the beginning,” Swanson said, “but when Rebecca Jarrett went down we certainly had to lean on her a lot more, and she just had an incredible year. I thought she was the best first-year in the ACC from start to end, and you could see how much she impacted our team with the assists and her creativity and what she can do with the ball. “

Flammia had a more challenging transition to college soccer. She missed the first part of the season with a back injury, but finished with four goals in 15 games.

“There was a little bit of a question whether we were going to redshirt her or not, given this injury to her back,” Swanson said. “But I think our athletic trainer, Bill Parente, and the medical staff did a great job getting her back, and she slowly started to get better and better, and about midyear she gave us a great lift, throughout the ACC schedule and also into the postseason. She really helped us in the NCAA tournament in terms of her impact.”

Jill Flammia

Cagle and Flammia are close friends who roomed together at UVA in 2022-23 and will do so again in the coming school year. During the U.S. team’s training camp in Palm Beach, Fla., however, the Cavaliers were separated. Flammia roomed with North Carolina’s Ally Sentnor and Cagle with Notre Dame’s Leah Klenke.

That UVA, UNC and Notre Dame are ACC rivals is no secret, but “ultimately it’s great being with such good players here,” Cagle said, “and we all come together as a U.S. team.”

Cagle is from Phoenix, but when it came time to choose a college, she looked to the east. She wanted to play in the ACC, the nation’s top conference for women’s soccer, and “I wanted to go to a prestigious university, somewhere I could get a great education,” said Cagle, whose mother is a former head coach of the women’s soccer team at Virginia Tech.

UVA offered everything  wanted, and she connected with a program led by Swanson and associate head coach Ron Raab.

“The coaching staff is just some of the best human beings that I’ve ever been able to be coached by,” Cagle said, “not only just their knowledge of the game, but how much they genuinely care about each player. So I think all that went into my decision, and I’m just so happy where I’m at now with Steve and Ron and all of them.”

Jill Flammia (second from left) with her siblings and former UVA great Morgan Brian

It’s no surprise that Flammia became a Wahoo. She grew up in Goochland County, about an hour’s drive from Charlottesville, and started attending camps and games at UVA as a girl.

“I’ve got a picture that her parents sent me of Jill [at UVA] when she was like 10,” Swanson said, laughing.

Flammia said: “I’ve always just been a fan of UVA. I loved their style of play and everything they’ve done so far and the history they’ve made.”

For the Cavaliers, this is their first journey abroad since 2017, when they toured France. When he was setting up this trip, Swanson said, the U-20 matches had not been scheduled, and he was confident all of his players would be able to go. The Concacaf championships changed that.

“This is the tough thing about world soccer,” Swanson said. “They’re not really looking at the college calendar. They’re trying to do what’s best for them.”

And so Cagle and Flammia will have to settle for following their Virginia teammates’ adventures from afar.

“It’s gonna be tough,” Flammia said, “but we’re both really excited for the team and the experiences they’re about to have.”

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