Men's Soccer: Previewing the Home Stretch

With the Hoos’ coaching staff and talent level, you can expect them to be a perennial ACC contender. This year, they haven’t had stunning success, but they’re still hovering on the outskirts of the Top 25. This shows the incredible depth of the ACC—Virginia (5-4-1, 1-2 ACC) is in 7th place in the conference.

The next game on the UVA schedule will set the tone for the rest of the season. After a tough home loss to a middling Clemson squad (4-5-2, 2-1-1) last week, the Hoos are looking to bounce back on Friday against the #1 team in the nation, Maryland (8-0-1, 3-0.)

If the Hoos can hang tight with the top-ranked Terps in College Park, it will go a long way toward establishing momentum for a rise in the ACC standings. It’s not unreasonable to expect a close game on Friday based on how the Hoos have done thus far against top-notch competition.

You’ll recall that a pair of Golden State teams visited Charlottesville early in the season. The Hoos beat Cal (6-3-1) 2-1, and were a Will Bates crossbar shot away from knocking off #11 UCLA (7-1-2) before a heartbreaking goal by the Bruins with 30 seconds remaining in overtime. Both teams also played in College Park during their East Coast trip, and while Maryland shut out Cal 6-0, the Terps and Bruins tied 2-2 in double overtime for Maryland’s only draw of the year.

So the Cavs could potentially give the Terps some trouble—they hung tight with the only team that’s caused problems for Maryland all season. Barring a dramatic upset, however, the Hoos will settle for any kind of positive momentum after the Clemson loss. A draw or even a close loss on the road would suffice. But then again, anything could happen with the parity of the conference.

Following the Maryland game, the Hoos get a chance to show their mettle against an undefeated #23 High Point team (9-0-1) from the Big South conference. Although the Panthers haven’t played anything like decent competition (their one draw came against VMI), going 9-0 is impressive. The Panthers will be coming out motivated, as this game is their only regular-season matchup with a major-conference opponent. But I’m optimistic about the Cavaliers’ chances—this would be a good opportunity for the Hoos to get a nice Top 25 win.

The #15 Wake Forest Demon Deacons (7-1-3, 1-0-3) come to town on October 12th. The Deacs are a bit of a question mark, with 3 ACC draws with Duke, Clemson, and North Carolina. They did have a convincing 4-0 road win against Virginia Tech, however. This will be a tough game, but nevertheless important for the standings.

Wright State (3-6-1) will visit Charlottesville on October 16th. This matchup should be no problem—the Raiders have lost to schools such as Robert Morris and Western Michigan.

In the final home game of the season, the Hoos should pick up a conference win over rival Virginia Tech (4-5-1, 0-3-1), who recently lost to Campbell 3-0. Of course you never know what could happen in the ACC, especially in a rivalry game like this, but the Cavs should pull this one off.

The Hoos finish up with two ACC road games, the first against Boston College (5-3-2, 1-1-1) on October 26th. UVA should be favored in this one—the Golden Eagles have been inconsistent at times, and have no quality wins.

Finally, Virginia goes to North Carolina State (7-4-0, 0-3-0), another mediocre ACC team who has fallen victim to the Campbell Fighting Camels of the Big South. As their conference record shows, the Wolfpack have struggled against quality competition. Again, a road game the Hoos should win.

And that takes us up to the ACC tournament. With the relatively easy stretch of the last 4 games, the Hoos should be able to build up some momentum and flex their muscle in the tourney. Barring an uncharacteristic major collapse, the Cavs should make the NCAA tournament as well, and hopefully put together some postseason magic to challenge for another College Cup title.

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