Olympic Sports Update: Impressive Performances From Men’s And Women’s Soccer

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Danny Flores scored Virginia Tech’s game-winning goal to knock off Notre Dame on Friday night. (Virginia Tech sports photography)

Virginia Tech capped off another big week in Olympic sports with two wins in men’s soccer and two draws against top-five opponents in women’s soccer. Meanwhile, the volleyball team dropped both of its matches against ACC opponents over the weekend to open conference play.

Men’s Soccer

No. 11 Virginia Tech men’s soccer maintained its midseason march through the rankings this week with a common occurrence (two wins), a flashback to 1972 (it honored the 50th anniversary of the men’s varsity soccer team on Friday night against Notre Dame) and an increasingly frequent event (an overtime win against an ACC opponent).

With those elements, a season that began with the expectation of making a run deep into the NCAA Tournament has slowly begun taking a turn for even higher expectations. 

A week after defeating Virginia on a walk off win, the Hokies scored a game-winning goal off the foot of freshman midfielder Danny Flores on Friday night against Notre Dame, 2-1.

And, a few days later, took early control of a 2-0 victory over East Tennessee State on Tuesday.

Since falling to Duke on Sept. 11, Tech (6-1-2, 2-1-0 ACC) has won four straight games, and the Hokies have a 6-1-1 record since taking down the No. 1 Marshall in late August.

Flores’ game-winning goal against the Irish capped off a match in which the Hokies had little business being in, but also had the most business in winning. Early on, they were dominated by an unranked Notre Dame team. The Irish racked up seven shots in the first half while holding VT to few offensive chances.

But Tech broke through in the 52nd minute when midfielder Landon Ameres’ pass found the right foot of forward Jacob Labovitz, who turned and fired a shot into the back of the net for his fifth goal of the season.

After Notre Dame tied the match 30 seconds later on a penalty kick, neither team generated much on offense until overtime. That was until Notre Dame’s Jack Lynn capitalized on two miscues from Tech midfielder Mayola Kinyua and defender Sivert Haugli, leaving him one-on-one with Hokies’ keeper Ben Martino.

Lynn chipped it over and it took the heroics of a jumping Welnilton da Silva Jr. to clear the ball to safety, and for the moment, preserve the 1-1 draw.

A few moments later, Flores, who was named co-ACC offensive Player of the Week, dribbled through three different defenders before ripping the golden goal, and Virginia Tech walked off an ACC opponent once more.

Next up, Tech plays Friday, Oct. 1 at Boston College before returning to Thompson Field a week later to host No. 14 Louisville.

Women’s Soccer

A season after it wasn’t able to score a goal for over a month, the Virginia Tech women’s soccer team’s talent and expectations have grown exponentially.

And after this past week, those expectations grew a bit more after the Hokies (7-2-2, 1-0-2 ACC) drew with both then-No. 4 North Carolina and then-No. 2 Duke. Those two draws vaulted VT into the United Coaches Soccer Poll rankings for the first time this season to No. 19.

That was due to the play of reigning ACC Co-Defensive Player of the Week goalkeeper Alia Skinner, whose 14-save performance against the Tar Heels and eight-save effort against the Blue Devils almost single-handedly kept the Hokies in both games.

Tech was less than 10 minutes away from a stunning upset over UNC in Chapel Hill, N.C., which would have been the program’s first-ever win at Dorrance Field. A crucial Nicole Kozlova goal in the 80th minute gave Tech a 2-0 lead.

It wasn’t meant to be, though, as the Hokies conceded two goals in the 82nd and 85th minutes to the Tar Heels, a match that finished in a 2-2 draw.

Alia Skinner was named ACC Co-Defensive Player of the Week after her performances against UNC and Duke. (Virginia Tech sports photography)

On Sunday, Tech was met with its next challenge, and it lived up to the task.

Against Duke, the Hokies struck first in the 21st minute when forward Tori Powell entered the 18-yard box and found Kozlova in front of goal. The Ukrainian international received Powell’s pass and netted it into the back of the goal, good for her seventh of the season.

And after Thursday’s draw, it appeared that the Hokies would put all the pieces together to upset Duke. That was until Duke senior Mackenzie Pluck delivered the ball to defender Nicole Chico in the 34th minute. 

Chico found herself at an odd angle, wide left of the six-yard box and a Hokie defender pressing her. The pressure didn’t stop her though, as she floated the ball perfectly over Skinner and found the bottom right corner of the net, tying the game at one.

Neither team was able to generate much more offensively as the match ended in a 1-1 tie at the conclusion of the second overtime period. The aforementioned Skinner played a large role in keeping the draw, coming up with four saves after halftime.

Virginia Tech will continue ACC action on Saturday, Oct. 2, when the Hokies travel to Pittsburgh for a 7 p.m. match against the Panthers.

Volleyball

It’s early in head coach Marci Byers’ tenure at the helm — her first full season after a COVID-shortend 2020 season — but she’s already starting to feel the pressure of the ACC schedule.

After a successful non-conference schedule in which the Virginia Tech volleyball team finished 9-3, it stumbled out of the ACC gates with losses over the weekend to Clemson and No. 13 Georgia Tech in Cassell Coliseum, both three-set sweeps.

Clemson secured the victory with a 25-22 win in the first set, 25-23 win in the second and a 25-18 win in the third. The Tigers were led by outside hitters Camryn Hannah (13 kills) and Kaylee Martin (11 kills).

For the Hokies, outside hitter Griere Hughes was the offensive leader with 12 kills, hitting .333 on the day. Middle blocker Angel Robinson recorded five kills and a .417 attack percentage.

On Sunday, VT wasn’t able to bounce back. After the Hokies led 9-3 in the first set and were on the verge of taking control of the match, Georgia Tech called a timeout and it was all downhill from there.

The Yellow Jackets stung the Hokies for the remainder of the set, going on a 22-8 run to close it out. In the next two sets, Tech didn’t put up much of a fight, going down 25-15 and 25-13 to end the match.

Tech (9-5, 0-2 ACC) is back in action on Friday, making the trip north to take on Boston College on Friday, Oct. 1 at 8 p.m., followed by a Sunday match vs. Syracuse at 1 p.m.

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