Sunday’s concluding half of the Virginia Tech Tournament wasn’t nearly as dramatic as Friday night’s first half, but the games proved to be both competitive and entertaining. In the end both ACC teams came out on top with 2-0 victories, Wake Forest over Georgetown and Virginia Tech over UNC-Wilmington.
Wake Forest 2, Georgetown 0
The Demon Deacons got a redemptive win to break a 3-game losing streak and to recover from a heartbreaking, last-second loss Friday night. A key was not giving up the early goals they did then (2 in the first 12 minutes). That almost fell apart in the very first minute when a Hoya forward stole the ball from a Deac defender, but her pass to an open player to her left was too strong and was cleared.
After that, they settled down and while Georgetown had the better of play, they were held in check by goalkeeper Lindsay Preston – who had 7 saves for the clean sheet – and the back line. The most dangerous player for Wake seemed to be right flank midfielder Kendall Fischlein, who consistently got past Hoya defenders to get off crosses deep.
The first goal came in the 40th minute off a pretty through ball from Caroline Wootten that sprung Pilar Torres in the box. Torres brought the ball to about 12 yards out from the left post, then tucked it into the lower right corner. For both teams the 1-0 halftime score was a considerable improvement on Friday.
The same story would hold for the second half, the Hoyas with somewhat the better of play – they’d finish with 14 shots to the Deacons’ 8 – but giving up a goal late in the half. This one came in the 86th minute after a Wake player was fouled about 15 yards out but almost on the sideline. Taylor Waters sailed a nicely placed into the 6-yard box that Riley Ridgik headed into the upper right corner.
Wake Forest head coach Tony da Luz was much happier after the game. “We deserved it today. I thought we played really well, moved the ball well, defended well when we had to, scored off a set piece, and got a great goal from Pilar [Torres]. Friday we played well enough to win but also poorly enough to lose, because we made some horrible defensive mistakes. I liked the way we responded, the kids really bounced back from a tough loss and put in an unbelievable performance today.”
He was complimentary in particular of goalkeeper Preston. “Our defending hasn’t been great for her. Today was just solid all around. The back four were much better, and Lindsay took care of everything she needed to take care of – the crosses, the corners, she took everything cleanly.”
On the other side, Georgetown head coach Dave Nolan was unhappy with the first half but pleased with the second. “This was a disappointing performance for us. We didn’t come out to play in the first half and got punished with a goal close to the break. The second half was better. We put Wake under pressure and created some good goal-scoring chances. Unfortunately, we didn’t put one away and they scored a second close to the end as we started leaving bodies up top.”
Georgetown has now suffered 2 straight losses after starting 3-0-1. Wake Forest is now 2-3.
Virginia Tech 2, UNC-Wilmington 0
After the Hokies shellacked the #13 team in the country Friday night, anything less than double digits against the less-heralded Seahawks would have been a comedown.
But the home team looked a little tired, and the finishing was definitely off. Tech would have 24 shots but only 8 on target.
The first goal took under 6 minutes, midfielder Katie Yensen sending a cross into the 6-yard box. It bounced around a bit with Murielle Tiernan attempting a shot that goalkeeper Carolyn Huddy could only block. The rebound fell to Ashley Meier, who put it in from point-blank range.
Most of the description of the rest of the game would involve nice plays by various Hokie players to get the ball to open teammates, who would proceed to send the ball into the upper branches of the trees behind the goal. So we’ll draw a veil over all that and fast-forward to the 70th minute. Virginia Tech would earn a free kick from a spot almost on the right end line, about 6 yards in from the corner kick spot. Kelsey Loupee would send the ball in parallel to the end line, and Shannon Mayrose headed it in from just inside the near post.
“I’m happy with the result,” said Tech head coach Chugger Adair. “They played us tough today and we missed some opportunities I would have liked to put away, but we got the win. I think our tired legs from Friday’s game showed up a little as well.”
Seahawks head coach Paul Cairney was philosophical. “There’s a good reason Virginia Tech is the No. 5 team in the country. Come tournament time, they will be competing for the national championship. It was a great experience for our players to compete in this environment and come away with a win over Wake Forest on Friday.”
UNC-Wilmington broke a 3-game winning streak and fell to 3-3. Virginia Tech is 6-0.
W-League Follow-Up, Round 3
Today was Spirit Reserves day, as I chatted with alums Maddie Huster, a freshman at Wake Forest coming off her first summer with the Reserves, and Katie Yensen, a senior at Virginia Tech who’s had three years with the Reserves/DC United Women.
Huster is one happy camper at Wake. “Great. I love it. Couldn’t ask for a better team to be surrounded by my first year. Coaches have been great. Captains, seniors, sophomores, juniors, everyone’s been really welcoming. It’s been a good start for me.”
I pointed out that despite being a newly-arrived freshman, she was already a key part of the team, playing a high center-mid position for close to 180 minutes over the weekend, giving her a big role in the attack. “Tony’s got a lot of faith in the freshman class, I think,” she said. “We do have a young team, but everybody’s been really helpful with trying to grow together as a team.”
I chatted with head coach da Luz as well about the same topics and about relying so much on freshmen. “We don’t have a choice,” he said. “We lost ten seniors last year. It’s not rebuilding, we just have to get them time, and I don’t mind getting them time. Sometimes you sacrifice the results, but I think development wise it’s going to be really good for them going into the ACC tournament.”
About Huster, he said, “She doesn’t play like a freshman. You can watch her play. She’s so mature on the ball, so patient, makes good decisions. She definitely is beyond her years.”
Back to Huster, I asked what sort of preparation playing for the Reserves had been. “Great. The speed of play in the W-League and the size of the girls, the strength of the girls, really helped me transition into this kind of soccer.”
Da Luz also thought it was helpful. “Yeah, I think it did. I mean, her club team wasn’t the best team ever, she had to carry a lot of the load. So I think being with those older kids in the W-League, she shares the responsibility more, and she can combine more. It’s the same thing – she’s just bringing that into our team. Those experiences are great for those kids.”
I asked Kahla Seymour about Huster, and she had some compliments, so I figured I had to go the other way as well. “Kahla’s been great. She had an injury at the beginning of the season, but she’s been great. She’s been coming back and got a few minutes yesterday. She’s a lot of fun to play with.”
The head coach agreed. “She missed all of preseason with her hamstring, so really just in the last week she’s been fully released for training. She’s got tons of potential. She just has to learn tactically a little bit more in her defensive role. But she’s as good as any of our freshmen, so once she gets up to speed with everything, I say by the second half of the season she’s going to be really good.”
Not surprisingly, Katie Yensen is also pretty happy, playing as she does for one of the best teams in the country. “Yeah, we’ve been doing well. I feel like I’ve been playing really well. The scoring hasn’t really been coming, but the team as a whole has been doing awesome, which is good. It’s fun to play soccer with everyone on this team.”
I asked if they’d all eaten their Wheaties or what before Friday night’s demolition of Georgetown. “We just played really well together that night. It was some of the best soccer that I’ve ever been a part of at Virginia Tech, just the way that we kept possession of the ball but also took advantage of our chances. It was awesome. And I think it was a big win for us this season going forward. Hopefully it’ll make a big impact for the NCAAs in the future.
“We were all so pumped for that game, Chugger got us pumped for it. We knew it was a big one because Georgetown is a really good team. I think the fact that we came out and played that well says a lot about our character and our talent.”
She thought the Reserves experience had helped her considerably. “The W-League was awesome just in preparing me: the practice, the games, and the level of competition that I experienced with the Spirit was incredible. And coming here it made the transition much easier. I mean, I know a lot of people who don’t really play over the summer, and I think it takes them a while to get into the game, whereas I think for me it was a much easier transition. It was definitely helpful.”
And where does she go from here? “Just individually, just like finishing my chances. I mean as a team we can always get better, always go forward more, always keep possession more. There’s always things you can do to tweak and fine-tune things. But overall we’re very pleased with where we are right now.”