Last week, the Virginia Women’s Soccer team kicked off their season with a 2-1 win over Colgate (and are now 3-0 with additional wins over Cincinnati and William & Mary). Tonight, the 15th ranked men’s squad gets their chance to start the 2018 season off on the right foot (haha...get it?) as they host New Hampshire. Their first matchup won’t be a walk in the park as the Wildcats start the season at No. 19.
New Hampshire is coming off of an outstanding 2017 season where they finished 13-4-5 and reached No. 12 in the rankings. The Wildcats made the NCAA tournament for just the second time in school history, eventually losing to Indiana in the third round. They bring back 19 players from last year’s historic team, led by senior Chris Arling (four goals last season).
These two squads have never faced each other, so be sure to check out the game tonight (Friday, 24 August) on WatchESPN at 7pm. If you’re in Charlottesville and go to the game, the first 500 fans will receive UVA Soccer “thunder sticks”, and the team will be signing autographs after the game.
Before things get started we’re taking a quick look back at how the Hoos fared last season, and what you can expect for this coming season.
A look back at 2017-18:
Players lost: Virginia’s two leading scorers—Edward Opoku (8 goals, 4 assists) and Pablo Aguilar (7 goals, 4 assists)—both departed Charlottesville in the off-season. Opoku is playing with the Columbus Crew this season and just made his first career MLS start:
In goal, the Hoos lose superstar keeper Jeff Caldwell. Caldwell played all but 12 minutes in goal last season, notching 50 saves and six shutouts with a 74% save percentage. He’s currently with the New York City FC.
Players back: The Hoos return All-ACC third teamer Sergio Nus who was third on the team in scoring with six goals and one assist, but his recovery from an ACL and meniscus injury leaves a lot of open questions. Even if he is back in time for tonight, we don’t yet know if and when he’ll be back to All-ACC-caliber level. Joe Bell, a midfielder who made the ACC’s All-Freshman team is expected to be a major player for the Hoos in his second season, and second year Colin Shutler is a strong candidate to start out the season in goal for the Hoos.
Virginia and Coach Gelnovatch add nine new faces to the roster this season with eight first years and a transfer. Keep an eye out for 6-2, 225 lb. first year forward Daryl Dike. He was named the 2018 Oklahoma Gatorade Player of the Year and one of the impact freshman by TopDrawerSoccer.com.
Diverse Roster: There are nine different countries represented on this season’s roster including the United States, Spain, Nigeria (two players), New Zealand, Denmark, Zimbabwe, England, Mexico, and Germany. The U.S. players hail from 12 different states (MA, GA, CT, VA, OH, NC, IN, OK, NJ, PA, NY, and FL), and a first year goalkeeper attended high school in Dubai.
2018-19 Projection: Virginia is preseason ranked No. 15 according to the United Soccer Coaches poll. They’re sixth in the ACC with North Carolina (No. 3), Wake Forest (No. 5), Louisville (No. 6), Duke (No. 10), and Clemson (No. 11) coming in ahead of them. The Hoos don’t face Louisville, but will have a loaded schedule with UNC, WF, Duke, and Clemson to go with Notre Dame (No. 17) and Florida International (No. 20) as ranked opponents over the course of the season.
Virginia has talent entering the season, but are untested and inexperienced. Question marks exist in replacing goal scorers like Opoku and Aguilar and in the goal with Caldwell. They will be tested early and consistently throughout the season. Despite being sixth in the overall rankings, the preseason ACC Coaches Poll picked the Hoos to finish second in the conference behind UNC. George Gelnovatch and the Hoos have the longest post-season streak in the nation, qualifying for 37 straight NCAA tournaments. That should continue this season.