There are just two women’s soccer teams left in the nation with a perfect record. One of those teams is No. 16 Virginia Tech. After an 8-0 start in non-conference play, the Hokies kept it rolling with a 2-0 victory over Miami to start the ACC season. This scorching start is tied for the second longest winning streak to start a season in program history.
“We haven’t played great in all nine matches, so it’s continually been building. Some days you have it and some days you don’t,” head coach Chugger Adair said. “One thing that has been consistent is that we’ve been able to grind out results and that’s been important to us. It’s important for our team and we’ve learned that. It’s going to take that same type of effort going forward.”
Now, Tech is thrown into the fire. On Thursday night, the Hokies will travel to Charlottesville to face the No. 1 Cavaliers. UVA is 8-0-1 after a draw at Wake Forest last Friday night. This test will be the toughest the Hokies have faced yet, but it will also be a great opportunity to prove themselves.
“Going into UVA at their home place is going to be a different atmosphere; they’re comfortable at home,” Adair said. “They’re a very good possession team and have quality players throughout all of their lines of the field. They’re good on the ball and make good decisions, so we’re going to have to keep the ball ourselves and translate our own possession forward.”
The Hokies won’t be intimidated heading into Charlottesville because Tech knocked off Virginia last year in Blacksburg. One year ago on a rain-soaked Friday night, the Hokies beat the No. 6 Cavaliers 1-0. This turned out to be a signature win for Tech early in the season.
“Last year was a tremendous team effort. We defended really well and limited some space for them to play,” Adair said. “We took a goal midway through the second-half and were able to close the game out.”
If it wasn’t enough for the Hokies to face the top team in the country, they will face four consecutive top-ten opponents early in league play. After UVA, Tech will head down to Clemson to face the 9th-ranked Tigers. Then, the Hokies will welcome No. 10 Duke and the defending national champions, Florida State.
“The conference is amazing. I think that’s why the student-athletes come here; to play in this conference, to play at Virginia Tech and play against top level teams,” Adair said. “When you get through the ACC conference, you can always look back and say, ‘If we get the opportunity to play in the NCAA Tournament, we’re going to be well-prepared.’”
To get through this stretch, the Hokies will need senior goalkeeper Mandy McGlynn to continue to play at the level she has early in the season. Through nine games, she has only allowed two goals and is tied for fifth in the country in save percentage. McGlynn has been fantastic on the back end for the Hokies. She’ll need to continue her success over these next few weeks.
“[Mandy] has been putting a lot of work in over the last couple of years and growing as a goalkeeper,” Adair said. “I’m not surprised at the quality that she has given us, and I think she’s one of the best goalkeepers in the country.”
On the other end, Emily Gray had a breakout year as a freshman. She finished last season on the ACC All-Freshman team with two goals and a team-leading six assists. After a slow start this year, she has burst back onto the scene in the last two weeks. The Hokies have scored four goals in the last three games. All four of them have come off of the foot of Gray.
“Emily has definitely taken it to the next level in terms of her finishing,” Adair said. “Prior to those games, she hadn’t scored yet and it was getting under her skin a little bit, but she had created so much for us. We talked to her about continuing to do what she’s doing, she’s a great player and does a lot of other things other than score.”
Both the attack and defense have to step up to keep the Hokies rolling deep into ACC play. This stretch coming up will be one of the toughest that Tech has to face in the regular season. However, if the team wants to make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament like last season, it will have to play talented teams like these. This stretch will be important to see what this 2019 Hokie team really is.
“It’s very satisfying for us throughout time as far as the growth we’ve had in the program,” Adair said. “Last year, we grew up as a group and as a team and that has translated into this year.”