Three straight wins, followed by three consecutive shutout losses? The Virginia Tech women’s soccer team (8-6-3, 4-5) has been inconsistent in league play thus far. After starting 3-1, the Hokies have now lost four out of their last five and have scored just three goals in those games. Most recently, the team fell to Clemson 3-1 on Sunday. Now the Hokies prepare to battle Louisville on the road on Thursday.
“We’ve got to get numbers on the attack,” Head Coach Chugger Adair said. “Against Clemson, we were able to get behind them a little bit, and create a little bit, we just need to work on the final finish.”
Despite struggles offensively, the Hokies have stayed in games, in large part due to the play of goalkeeper Mandy McGlynn. The junior from Jacksonville, Florida has allowed just 18 goals in 17 games and played every minute for Virginia Tech.
“Mandy has been huge, when you look at some of the significant wins that we’ve had and the runs that we’ve had, she’s been an integral part,” Adair said. “I think she’s made the saves she’s needed to in those games despite being under a lot of pressure playing in the ACC.”
Despite recent struggles in league play, the Hokies still sit tied for eighth in the ACC. Unlike men’s soccer where every team makes the ACC tournament, only eight are invited in women’s soccer. Louisville presents the Hokies’ last chance to earn points towards the ACC standings as the tournament begins on Sunday.
“The good thing about this opportunity for us, is if we win, we’re in [the tournament],” Adair said. “We have some control over our fate where we have to go and get the job done. There are some scenarios where if we don’t, and other teams don’t, we get in, but the bottom line is if we win, we’re in.”
The Cardinals (12-4, 6-3) are tied for third in the ACC. Thursday night will be a tough test for the Hokies as they have to travel to Louisville, where only Virginia has escaped with a win this season.
“Louisville is an extremely talented, athletic team that we’ve been able to watch them play three or four different games throughout the year,” Adair said. “They’re dangerous, hard-working, and eager to prove themselves, so it’s going to be a difficult game for us.”
Louisville has been led up front and in the midfield by three talented players. Freshman forward and midfielder Maisie Whitsett leads the team in goals with nine on just 38 shots. Junior forward Brooklynn Rivers leads the team in points with 22, scoring eight goals and assisting on six others. Four of Rivers’ goals have been gamewinners. Finally, sophomore midfielder Emina Ekic has started every game and has six goals and four assists for the Cardinals.
“They’ve got a handful of special players, one of them is Ekic,” Adair said. “She’s got the ability to score goals and take people out of trouble and be pretty dangerous in the attacking third, so we’ve got to be able to contain her and limit their ability to get forward.”
After the game in Louisville on Thursday, the Hokies immediately will shift their focus to the postseason, with the ACC Tournament next week, and the NCAA Tournament beginning soon after.
“I think we’ve got a good shot at making both tournaments,” Adair said. “This game is in our hands to try and make the ACC Tournament, and a result would definitely help our chances to make the NCAA Tournament.”
The Hokies currently rank 43rd in the RPI rankings. The NCAA tournament accepts 33 at-large bids with 31 conference champions. A win Thursday and an appearance in the ACC Tournament would greatly boost Virginia Tech’s chances when teams are selected on November 5th.
“Looking at our season and the conference we’ve had to deal with, we’re playing a lot of good teams that other teams in other conferences don’t have to deal with,” Adair said. “When you do that you get yourself tournament ready and give yourself a chance to make a run.”