Virginia Tech’s Cinderella run came to an end with a 3-0 loss to No. 3 North Carolina in the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Tournament. However, the women’s soccer team had many accomplishments throughout the year. They took down No. 6 UVA in the regular season for the first time since 2009, made it back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2015, and won two games in the tournament. This included beating No. 17 Texas in Austin, who had not lost at home all year until that game.
“I was very pleased with the effort the girls put in and the work that they put in for us,” Head Coach Chugger Adair said. “It hasn’t always been easy, there have been ups and downs and challenges, but they rose to the occasion when needed.”
Adair made his fourth trip to the Sweet Sixteen, but this time the Hokies went into their first two games as underdogs. Texas was the fourth seed in the region, but a second half goal from junior Bridget Patch, her first goal of the season, was enough to win. The Hokies then faced Arkansas on the road, where they won in the final seconds of the second overtime period on a header from Jordan Hemmen. These wins were no fluke. Playing in the ACC prepared the team for tough situations and big moments like those.
“I think we were able to just continue to grow and the student athletes were able to buy into what we were trying to do,” Adair said. “Our overall experiences throughout the season helped us go on the road and get a result against Texas and win against Arkansas.”
This wasn’t an aging team that was able to accomplish this much. Of the thirteen players receiving the most minutes this season, six of them were freshmen. With so much youth on this team, the run to the Sweet Sixteen is not the end of an era for this program, but the beginning. The Hokies missed the tournament the previous two years, but if the young players on this team continue to develop, they should not miss it again for a while.
“I think we had a really good blend of leadership, and also some able and willing freshmen to step up and be a huge part of the team,” Adair said. “I think we’ll look to try and build off of that heading into next year.”
The Hokies will also be adding more youth who can contribute next year. Seven freshmen will be joining the roster in the fall, including Calista Hester, a forward from New York. She scored 57 goals last year and 167 during her high school career. Other incoming freshmen include goalkeeper Dare Burnett, midfielder Cassidy Brown and left back Sydney Ash, who all played for the same club team in Northern Virginia. This group could help the Hokies next year and throughout their careers in Blacksburg.
“It’ll be another exciting class, I think it will be well balanced as far as adding a couple of defenders and players that can jump in up top,” Adair said. “That will add depth to our team and our lineup and hopefully allow us to be more consistent around goal.”
With so much youth on this roster, the experience of making a run in the tournament will only help this team in the future. The program is looking up and another special run could be just around the corner for the Hokies.
“I personally think [the future of the program] looks bright,” Adair said. “I think we’ve done a good job in rebuilding the group, and next year we’re going to have a really good group of players back.”