The ACC is dominant in men’s soccer once again this year. The conference is full of contenders, and the Hokies have faced almost all of them. This has led to some close losses against elite opponents, and hurt their record in the league. The Hokies sit at 2-3-1 in the ACC, and 8-4-2 overall, but the raw record doesn’t display how well the team has played.
“Overall, I’d say [our performance] is pretty good,” Head Coach Mike Brizendine said. “I didn’t think that we played well in the NC State game, I thought that was a pretty poor performance, but every other one has been really good.”
The ACC owns six of the top seven spots in the RPI rankings, and the Hokies have been forced to play four of those six teams. The team knocked off No. Syracuse in double overtime, were able to get a draw against No. 3 Virginia, and lost in one goal matches to No. 2 Wake Forest and #4 North Carolina.
“We do something unique, that not a lot of people do, and that’s play one of the toughest schedules in the country,” Brizendine said. “I think we have a top ten schedule right now, and this one could end up being top five.”
Virginia Tech sits at No. 12 in the RPI and seems to be getting hot at the right time with two consecutive wins. The first came over Pittsburgh, which pushed them above the Panthers in the ACC Coastal rankings.
“We finished our chances and didn’t give up much, which is the key in any soccer match,” Brizendine said. “That was a crucial game for both teams, and it seems like every time we play Pitt it’s the same story, both of us desperately need to win that game. We were fortunate to put some wins together and get the result.”
The Hokies followed up their big conference win with a game against William & Mary. Despite not being at the same level of ACC opponents, the Tribe was able to make the NCAA Tournament last year. However, Virginia Tech kept a clean sheet and won 4-0 on Tuesday night. This was only the second time the Hokies put up four goals in a game.
“[William and Mary] is a team that is very, very good. Their record doesn’t show it because they have a number of injuries,” Brizendine said. “They returned everybody from last year, that won the CAA, and they kicked our butts last year.”
The offense putting up seven goals in the last two games is a welcomed sight for the Hokies, after not having much success on the attack early on in league play. The team had only scored four goals in their first five ACC games prior to facing Pittsburgh.
“You want to finish your chances, but the reality is it’s just tough,” Brizendine said. “We try to execute the best we can, but the reality is, we’re playing against the best.”
Now, Virginia Tech has a chance to climb higher in the ACC Coastal standings with their last two league games. The team plays Notre Dame on the road this Friday, and then come back to Thompson Field to face Duke next week. Both of these teams are directly above the Hokies in the conference standings. However, these won’t be easy tests either. The Irish are No. 5 in the RPI rankings, and the Blue Devils sit at No. 10. Results in these two games would set up Virginia Tech for a deep run in the postseason.
“For me and our staff the goal is to get to the NCAA Tournament,” Brizendine said. “We always find that having a tough schedule is the way to do it. If you’re over .500 with a top ten schedule, you’ll get in”