The Virginia Tech women’s soccer program has received a burst of young talent from their freshman class in 2018. Five of the team’s ten goals have been scored by freshmen, including four from Karlie Johnson, which leads the team. Johnson is from Keller, Texas and has played for FC Dallas for over seven years. She’s already developed into the premier scorer for this team despite only starting in three games.
Freshman Emily Gray also is tied for the team lead in assists with two. Gray was able to play on the U.S. U-18 National Team this spring in Spain. This combination, plus other young contributors, are already showing a lot of promise for the Hokies.
“The majority of the [freshman] group has come in fit, they’ve really been committed from the start,” head coach Chugger Adair said. “They’ve been open to learning, and open to their teammates, and open to new positions they could be playing. They’ve done a really good job in terms of transitioning in and buying into the culture and what we want them to do.”
The young team has really excelled on defense, allowing just four goals in eight matches. They’ve achieved three straight clean sheets against Georgia, Villanova, and ETSU. Despite their defensive success, their offense has really struggled to finish off chances.
“What I’d like to see more of is just better decision making around goal, just some nuances around goal to take your chance and put the game away,” Adair said. “We’ve still got to develop that and grow that as a group.”
The Hokies (4-1-3) have only converted 10 of their 152 shots into goals through their eight matches, only a 6.5% conversion percentage. The attack will have to improve when they take on ACC rival UVA at home, as well as other ACC foes. The UVA game was scheduled to take place Friday night, but has since been postponed due to Hurricane Florence. No announcement has been made regarding a makeup date, but when the Hokies are able to face UVA, it will be a huge test for the young group. The Cavaliers are ranked fifth in the nation according to the latest coaches poll and are undefeated at 7-0-0.
“It’s a huge game and a huge opportunity for us because UVA is traditionally a very good team,” Adair said. “So this is always a big rivalry game for us, we’ve had some really good matches over the years, in ACC Tournament games. We have this rivalry, it’s important for our girls to play united, to play as a group, and play for 90 minutes, 110 minutes, whatever it takes.”
Virginia comes in having scored 22 goals in its first seven matches, and has really excelled on the attack. The Hokies will need to continue playing well on defense in order to contain the high-powered scoring threats of the Cavaliers. UVA has three players tied for the team lead in goals with three – seniors Betsy Brandon and Brianna Westrup, and freshman Rebecca Jarrett. The Hokies only have one player with three or more goals in Johnson.
“We’ve got to be very organized, I think we’ve got to be committed to defending from the forwards back and limit space for them to play,” Adair said. “They move the ball very well, we have to make sure we limit it and defend as a group.”
Coach Adair won his 99th game with Virginia Tech on Monday night against ETSU. This gives him the chance to reach the milestone of 100 career wins in Tech’s next game. The program has been very successful since Adair came on campus, including a great run in 2013 to the national semifinal. However, the program is still not seen in the same conversation as top ranked ACC programs like UVA, Florida State, and UNC. The conference in total has four ranked teams, and all are in the top 13.
“The ACC is such a strong conference with so many dominant teams in the national spotlight,” Adair said. “It takes us all pulling together, and I think that’s something that we’ve been working on is trying to pull together and play for the team, and that’s important.”