Virginia Tech men’s soccer has inserted themselves into the upper echelon of the ACC with their play this season, and there’s no reason to believe they won’t stay there.
The No. 19 Hokies have started the season 7-1, their only loss coming at the hands of No. 1 Notre Dame on the road. Since then, Virginia Tech has won their last three matches by a combined score of 6-0.
“The guys have done well,” said Head Coach Mike Brizendine. “We’ve had to face some adversity, we’ve had to deal with some things. I’m really proud of the guys. I think that while we may bend, it’s tough to break us. We’ve had a lot of guys step up.”
Virginia Tech’s defense has been solid all season and has been a large part of their success. When you take out the Hokies’ 4-1 loss to Notre Dame, Tech has allowed just three goals in the other seven games.
“The chemistry with that back group, with Ben (Lundgaard), Alessandro (Mion), Will (Mejia), J.P (Saavedra) and Elias (Tamburini), they’ve just been excellent,” Brizendine said. We’ve worked on our shape and stuff in the back. We honestly feel if we have to bunker down and defend with six guys, it’s very difficult for someone to score on us. Defending is a mentality, right? Whether you’re talking soccer, basketball or football. If the guys have the right mentality, it’s tough to score on them.”
Ryan Marcano has come alive for Virginia Tech offensively, scoring two goals in Tech’s last two games.
“He has just so many tools,” Brizendine said. “I’m just glad football hasn’t come over here and told me they want him to try out, because he’s that kind of athlete. He’s so quick, agile and strong as an ox. I think he’s coming into a rhythm. I hope so.”
Despite the three-match win streak, it’s been a tough stretch. Several Hokies have been sick, Andre Thomas missed Virginia Tech’s match vs. NC State and is still trying to get to full strength, and the Hokies will have played four matches in two weeks after Friday night’s showdown with No. 7 Clemson.
Brizendine is hoping to get the sickness and injury bug under control before the cold weather hits in Blacksburg.
“That cool weather is about to hit and everybody is about to get sick,” Brizendine said. “Being able to manage that as perfect as we can as a coach. You’d like to take your team away to the Hilton Garden Inn and just seclude them, but we can’t do that. We just have to manage those things.”
Virginia Tech’s match with No. 7 Clemson on Friday night is the next big test on the schedule
“They’re very deserving of their current rank. There’s no fluff in that,” Brizendine said.
“In the past, these games have probably intimidated us. I don’t think that we’re intimidated,” Brizendine said. “Not that we’re arrogant about it by any stretch of the imagination, but we know that if we play well that we can compete with anybody.”
On the field, Brizendine said the Hokies will have to slow down midfielders Oliver Shannon and Iman Mafi, as well as forward Diego Campos.
“They’re dangerous, they’re very confident and they don’t leave much for way of weaknesses,” Brizendine said. “I think if we can possess, we can do what we want, we’ll have some success because we’ve had success with that all year. Our passing has got to be crisp, that’s one thing. Ball movement, our passing has to be crisp and then no soft goals.”
Depending on how the rest of the season goes, Virginia Tech finds themselves in prime position to make the NCAA Tournament. However, in the loaded ACC, the Hokies will be tested frequently.
“We have a lot of tough games in front of us, so we’ll find out what we’re made of,” Brizendine said. “We need to stay healthy, that’s imperative. While we have depth… if somebody gets injured, we can put somebody in there, but what if that person needs a sub or we have to replace them? We’re going third string in some areas. We need to stay healthy and I think that we can.”
“I think we look very attractive as an at-large bid and those kind of things,” Brizendine said. “I think we can be very competitive. You look at the next three weeks, it’ll give us a good indicator of what’s going on with our group.”