After defeating the No. 23 University of Dayton Flyers (16-1-6) last Sunday 3-1 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, the No. 17 Virginia Tech Women’s Soccer Team is ready for its next challenge.
“We’re really confident,” said junior forward Marika Gray, who scored three goals last weekend. “We’re just trying to work hard and keep going, and it’s awesome. We’re all excited and blessed to have the opportunity to be here.”
Having already made history by qualifying for back-to-back NCAA appearances, the Hokies have advanced to the Sweet 16 where Tech, the No. 3 seed in the UCLA bracket, will face the No. 2 seed, the University of Portland Pilots (20-1-0) on Friday night.
Portland has a long-standing tradition of excellence in the world of women’s soccer. This is their tenth-straight NCAA appearance and their tenth-straight Sweet 16.
“We play in the ACC, we play against the best teams – including two No. 1 seeds in the tournament – and seven out of eight teams in the Sweet 16,” said senior forward Emily Jukich. “I feel like that’s really prepared us for this and we definitely respect Portland and know that they’ll be a great opponent, but I don’t think we’re psyched out. We have a lot of confidence going in knowing that we’ve been prepared all season.”
The Pilots have outscored their opponents by a margin of 70 goals this season, scoring 78 and allowing just eight. They are also on a 13-game winning streak and have not lost a game at home all year.
“I think we just really need to focus on ourselves and the things that we can control,” said Head Coach Kelly Cagle. “In order for us to maintain our confidence, regardless of the opponent, we just focus on the things that we have control over and how we approach each game and the overall respect we have for each opponent only generates more motivation for us to play knowing that every game needs to be our best game.”
Against a team that averages 3.71 goals per game, the Hokies will need to rely heavily on their defensive core, led by sophomore goalkeeper Kristin Carden.