It has been an up-and-down season for the Virginia Tech Men’s Soccer team. The Hokies are 6-3-2 on the year, but all six of those wins came in non-conference play. After being ranked in the top 10 entering league play, the team has completely dropped out of the rankings.
“I think that we’ve played well, but have been unfortunate in a couple of scenarios,” said head coach Mike Brizendine. “I didn’t think our performance against Pitt was very good, but all of the other ones, I think that we’ve put together a pretty good performance and some very impressive performances. For some reason or another, we didn’t come away with any points.”
Despite not having a win yet in the ACC, the Hokies are still in a good position to get back to the NCAA Tournament for the fourth consecutive year. Tech is ranked eighth in the RPI. This can mostly be attributed to the tough schedule the Hokies have taken on this year. They have already faced three teams that are currently ranked, and still have a matchup with top-ranked Virginia later in the season.
“We’re eight or nine in the RPI, so while we’re struggling with ACC points, we’ve done a great job and we’re in a pretty good spot,” Brizendine said. “Obviously, we want to get a result, because I don’t want to finish in the basement of the ACC, but it’s not like that is the basement of other leagues.”
The most impressive result that Tech has earned in the ACC was a draw at Clemson, who was ranked No. 6 at the time. However, the Hokies followed that with a 3-1 loss in a tough road environment at Pittsburgh.
“Our tie against Clemson was awesome,” Brizendine said. “We kept them off the scoreboard, which is something else, so we’re in a pretty good spot.”
A main issue for the Hokies in ACC play has been scoring. In six non-conference games, Tech has put up 19 goals for an average of over three goals per game. In their five games in the league, the Hokies have only scored five times.
Now, the Hokies get an opportunity to play against a team that has had a similar season. Notre Dame is 1-4 in the ACC, but still finds itself inside the top twenty in the RPI. On homecoming weekend, Tech is going to have to show up ready to play at Thompson Field to change its fortune in the ACC.
“If we bring the energy, I think we’ll be in that game,” Brizendine said. “I think it’s going to come down to the finer points, we have to be better than them and make less mistakes.”
Notre Dame is a perennial contender and has made the NCAA Tournament every year since 2012, and all but one year since 2001. The Fighting Irish were one game away from the College Cup last season. They may be having a tough year in the conference, but the Irish can never be taken lightly.
“It’s always the same with them in the sense that they have players that are all very technical, have good soccer IQ’s, work extremely hard, and they make very few mistakes,” Brizendine said. “We have to force the issue and force them to make mistakes through our pressure and good services and all of the above.”
The game this Friday will have even more intrigue because it is homecoming weekend in Blacksburg. The men’s team will be playing at 5:30 before the women’s squad matches up with Wake Forest at 8. The doubleheader plus the Hokies’ football game on Saturday against North Carolina should lead to a great atmosphere on Friday evening.
“Being home will be great; they have to leave South Bend which is great,” Brizendine said. “We play more away games than any other ACC team, so it’s nice when we actually get some home games.”
This weekend’s game will be a large measuring stick for Tech, as the team will only have two more ACC games remaining after Friday. If the Hokies are going to make a run into the postseason this year, they will have to start getting results down the stretch.
“I think that we’re in a good spot right now, but we need to get some wins. That’s the bottom line,” Brizendine said. “If we do that, we’re going to be in an awesome position, maybe even better than we were last year.”