It has been 13 years since Virginia Tech has defeated UVA in men’s soccer, but Friday night presents another chance for the team. The 21st-ranked Hokies have gotten off to a hot start in their first four games, starting 3-0-1. This included wins in the JMU Invitational over Air Force and Gardner-Webb, both ending with a 2-1 score. This past weekend the team traveled down to Florida and beat South Florida 1-0 and tied Central Florida 2-2.
“I think the guys have done a good job in coming together, I know we have a lot of new faces on that roster,” Head Coach Mike Brizendine said on the early success of his team. “So, they’ve done a good job coming together, worked hard, and they have some grit to them, which is helping us right now get some results.”
Despite the record of the team, the Hokies have yet to put up more than two goals in a game. The defense and goalkeeping have been stout, allowing just 0.92 goals per game. Sophomore goalkeeper Mathijs (Mata) Swaneveld has been a large part of the defensive success. In Tech’s last game at UCF, Swaneveld was able to collect 10 saves and preserve the draw.
“It’s never just one person, I think our defending group is pretty solid,” Brizendine said. “Obviously Mata in goal is a huge piece of our core group, but it is a team effort, it’s not like five guys defend, the responsibility, at least with our group, is everyone defends.”
The defense’s hot start has lifted the Hokies thus far, but now they head into Charlottesville Friday to face the Cavaliers. Coach Brizendine has never defeated the Cavaliers since taking over as head coach in 2009, but since 2010, Tech has either tied, or lost by one goal, every single matchup with UVA.
“Obviously it’s frustrating, I want to win every game, it doesn’t even matter that it’s UVA,” Brizendine said on the close finishes in recent years. “It’s a fan favorite and they’re a good team, I roll up to every game, I want to win every game, and I’m disappointed if we don’t win every game.”
The latest coaches poll has Virginia ranked seventh in the nation. Coach George Galnovatch’s Cavaliers enter the rivalry matchup with a record of 1-0-1, their only win coming at home against New Hampshire. UVA is coming off a double overtime draw in Washington D.C. against Maryland. They’ll be looking to preserve their undefeated record at home on Friday.
“The one thing is we’ve had tough games on the road, so we’ll be comfortable in the environment,” Brizendine said. “I don’t think our guys will be nervous at all, we’re watching video on them, we’ll prepare, we need to execute our gameplan. If we do that, I think it’ll be a good night for us.
The game Friday night will open up ACC play for the Hokies in a loaded conference. Seven of the top twelve teams in the Coaches Poll come from the ACC, so even being ranked in the top 25 and getting off to a good start is crucial for Tech.
“Having a bye or a home game when it comes to the end of the year is pivotal, and that’s what we’re shooting for, and that’s our goal,” Brizendine said. “To do that you have to pick up points, and this is our first opportunity to get some league points, so it means a lot.”
Tech enters this season coming off of back-to-back trips to the NCAA Tournament, but lost a lot of talent including goalkeeper Ben Lundgaard, a first round pick in the 2018 MLS Superdraft. This year, the team has a lot of new faces, but is looking to continue that same success.
“You talk to anyone before our season started, they would never tell you we’d be having the start we’re having because of what we replaced,” Brizendine said. “With that said, getting back to the tournament is a great goal for us.”
The team may be retooling, but the hot start they are having shows promise for the future.
“Within this group, within the next couple of years we could make a special run,” Brizendine said. “I was here when we went to the Final Four, the Elite Eight, when we’ve had success, and I think this group has the makings to do that.”