The Virginia women’s soccer team, poised to begin the 2016 season this fall, received a No. 4 ranking from the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) this year in a preseason poll released by the association.
The Cavaliers, who retain seven starting players from last year’s lineup, fell just short of the Final Four in last year’s NCAA tournament, when Rutgers slid past the Hoos in the Elite Eight. The match, which lasted past both regulation and two overtimes, was decided in penalties, where the Scarlet Knights swept the Cavaliers 7-6.
With the majority of the team returning this year, Cavalier fans have reason to expect a similarly successful season. In particular, Virginia boasts the return of five defensive starters, including senior Morgan Stearns in goal, seniors Meghan Cox, Tina Iordanou, and Kristen McNabb on the back line, and junior Megan Reid.
In addition to UVA’s experienced back line, the Cavaliers will begin play this fall with two players on the MAC Hermann Trophy preseason watch list, which is awarded to the top collegiate soccer player each season. Both Kristen McNabb and senior midfielder Alexis Shaffer, selected for the watchlist, were also voted preseason All-ACC by the league’s coaches, with Shaffer’s return giving the Cavaliers another key player to watch.
As a junior last year, Shaffer posted 14 goals on the season, five of which were game-winning, tying then-senior Makenzy Doniak for leading scorer. She also amassed eight assists, coming in second on the team behind Doniak’s 11.
McNabb, along with running a defense that picked up 15 shutouts, also scored five goals last year, including one game-winning goal in the ACC Championships when Virginia faced No. 6 Clemson. Both Shaffer and McNabb earned second-team NSCAA All-Region honors for their performance.
Despite the Cavaliers’ promising outlook, they face tough competition in the ACC, playing away from home late September in their match against three-time ACC Champions Florida State. In addition, the ACC’s preseason top seven teams – Florida State, Virginia, Duke, North Carolina, Clemson, Notre Dame, and Virginia Tech – also rank in the NSCAA’s Preseason Top 25 poll, presenting several tough competitors if the Cavaliers are looking to replicate their 19-1-3 record from last year.
The Cavaliers open their season at Liberty on August 19, followed swiftly by their first home game against George Mason, which will take place August 21. To catch the Hoos in action before then, check out their exhibition matches at Michigan August 11 and against West Virginia August 14.