The Virginia Tech women’s soccer team is off to an extremely hot start with four consecutive wins to start the season. Outscoring opponents 10-1 over these first two weeks of the season has put the Hokies on the map, as they are currently ranked No. 23 in the nation. To say the least, Tech has looked impressive early in 2019.
“The mentality from the group we have [has been the key to our success],” head coach Chugger Adair said. “They want to be successful; they want to score goals; they enjoy those types of moments. That’s something we’ve been striving to continue to grow and push the kids, and they’ve bought in.”
This start shouldn’t be surprising considering the run that the team went on in last year’s NCAA Tournament. The Hokies went to Austin and knocked off a Texas team that hadn’t lost at home throughout the entire regular season. Then, Adair and Co. won a thriller over Arkansas in double-overtime to reach the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2014. Tech can take momentum from that, but the team knows that isn’t the ultimate goal.
“We don’t want to be satisfied with just a good run there,” Adair said. “We want to put consecutive good years together and build off of it. We’ve got a good group of leaders and a good mentality heading into the season.”
Offensively, the Hokies have received production from an unexpected source. Senior Mikayla Mance entered this season having only scored one goal in her entire career in Blacksburg. Through the first two weeks, Mance has come off of the bench in every game and scored in all but one to lead the team with three goals.
“She’s just playing confident and building off of some work that she did in the offseason,” Adair said. “She’s really not trying to overplay, just taking chances when they come to her. I think she had a lot of chances that just didn’t fall for her in the past, now she’s got one or two that have fallen and she’s continued to grow from them.”
Although the goals haven’t come from the usual sources, the one thing that Adair can count on from his team is sound goalkeeping. Mandy McGlynn, last year’s First Team All-ACC goaltender, has been just as stingy in goal as expected. McGlynn has 11 saves on the season and has only allowed a single goal. She started the season with three consecutive shutouts and didn’t allow a goal until over 326 minutes into the season, a new school record.
“[Having McGlynn in goal] makes everybody more confident,” Adair said. “I think Mandy is such a great person. The team can feed off of that, and they’re very comfortable with her in the back line. It gives us some confidence as we play throughout the lines with our ability to go forward.”
Now, McGlynn and the Hokies face their third straight SEC opponent after knocking off Georgia and Auburn in Athens. Alabama travels to Blacksburg to face the Hokies on Thursday night with a 3-1 record. The Hokies went down to Tuscaloosa last season and fell 1-0 to the Tide. They get a chance, this year, to even up the series and get the program’s first win ever against Alabama.
“I think both teams that were there last year were different animals than they are this year,” Adair said. “I think we’re a little better this year than we were at this time last year, and I think they are too from what I’ve seen.”
The Hokies could continue to climb up the rankings with a big win over the Tide on Thursday. This game starts a three game homestand at Thompson Field. A few more wins heading into ACC play, which starts in just over two weeks, could have Tech looking like a serious contender to make another NCAA Tournament run.
“They’re going to be the most difficult team of the three SEC teams that we play from what I’ve seen,” Adair said. “They’ve got a lot of attacking personalities that can get forward from the back and they have a lot of depth that they can put into the group. We’re looking at a lot of different personalities that we have to deal with, and they’re a good team that we have to handle.”