The Virginia Tech women’s soccer team has been hot early in ACC play. After losing at No. 7 Florida State to open league play, the Hokies have reeled off three straight wins, and haven’t surrendered a goal since that game in Tallahassee. These wins have netted the Hokies nine points in the ACC, good enough to be tied for second in the conference.
“Three points in any game is important, nine points has been great for us,” head coach Chugger Adair said. “Over the years, we’ve found that when we have success early in the season, it helps our mental state and our ability to push through tougher games later in the season.”
The second game in the win streak stands out from the others. It came against No. 8 UVA. Before that game, the Hokies were 3-15-1 against the Cavaliers. Their last win in the series was in the 2013 ACC Tournament, and their last regular season win was back in 2009. The Hokies scored early on a header from junior Jordan Hemmen off a corner from freshman Emily Gray. The game went into a lightning delay with sixteen minutes remaining. When the game resumed, the field was soaked and almost unplayable, but the Hemmen goal was the only score of the game. Virginia Tech knocked off the Cavaliers, 1-0.
“It shows some of their toughness and mental grit to get a result,” Adair said. “It shows we’re committed to getting the result when we need to, and it’s always extra special when it’s a rival like Virginia.”
The Hokies now head north to face No. 11 Boston College on Thursday night. This is the first of three straight games against ranked ACC opponents. They will then head to Durham to face the #17 Duke Blue Devils, before returning home to Thompson Field to take on No. 3 UNC.
“It’s definitely a key stretch for us in the season, and we talk about trying to build our resume as we get to the latter part of the year,” Adair said. “All of the teams we’re playing are teams we’ll be compared with, both in the conference and at a national level.”
Boston College presents a unique challenge for the Hokies because of their ability to score consistently. The Eagles have scored 29 goals this season already, and have only allowed seven. They have three players who have scored five or more goals as well. The Hokies have only been able to score fifteen goals and have just one five-goal-scorer in freshman Karlie Johnson.
“They have a very dynamic front four, they play with three forwards and one withdrawn forward,” Adair said. “We’re going to have to really work on containing those front four as we play.”
The withdrawn forward for Boston College is sophomore Sam Coffey. She not only has five goals on the season, but leads the nation in assists with eleven. No one else on the Eagles’ roster has more than three.
“Coffey sitting in behind the forwards is one of their best players,” Adair said. “She brings people into the game, she also can create for herself. She’s one that’s going to be very dangerous.”
The Eagles are 11-1 on the season and are one of the teams tied with Virginia Tech for second in the ACC. They will be a tough opponent, especially playing on the road. However, the Hokies have proven they can beat top level competition.
“[The mindset that we can beat anybody] was something we potentially lacked against Florida State,” Adair said. “Now we’ve gained some confidence and had some belief in the group and we’ve been able to prove that.”
The Hokies will need that mindset even after Thursday night for their games against Duke and UNC. The Blue Devils are 8-2-2, and seven of their wins have come at home heading into their matchup with Wake Forest Thursday night. However, the big challenge will be the Tar Heels at home next Saturday. North Carolina is the only team in the ACC with four ACC wins, and is undefeated thus far in conference play. This storied program will be a tough test for the Hokies, but also a great opportunity.
“When you look at Carolina, they’re deep, they’re athletic, they’re dangerous going forward,” Adair said. “They have tradition and confidence from their tradition, and we know that going in.”
This stretch gives the Hokies a chance to move into the rankings and continue to compete in the ACC. A couple of wins could put this team into a position to make a deep run in the postseason, as the ACC Tournament approaches in less than a month.