Talking to fans outside Ellis Field after Saturday night's massive win that saw A&M advance to the College Cup for the first time in program history, coach G Guerrieri said that the team will enjoy the victory that night but then it's on to getting ready for the next one. Despite the historic result that the Aggies achieved by taking down Penn State 2-1, this team will not be satisfied just by getting to the Final Four - they are there to win it. The first obstacle standing in the way of bringing home a trophy to Aggieland is the Virginia Cavaliers.
Virginia earned a #2 seed in the NCAA Tournament, and sailed through the first three rounds with total ease. The Cavaliers then traveled to California to play #1 overall seed and defending national champion UCLA, the same team that eliminated Virginia on penalty kicks in the Final Four a year ago. Virginia got their revenge and posted a 2-1 victory which ended UCLA's incredible 44-game unbeaten streak. Before we jump into breaking down specifics on what to expect from Virginia, let's take a broad look at a statistical comparison between the Cavaliers and Aggies. We'll also give you 6 field players to watch, three from each team, and a look at how the 2 teams' goalkeepers match up (keeping in mind that Jordan Day missed time early in the season after a knee injury).
|Team||Goals||Assists||Shots||Goals Allowed||Shots Allowed|
|Player, Position||Team/Class||Goals||Assists||Shots||Shots on Goal|
|Makenzy Doniak, F||UVA/JR||19||11||91||46|
|Morgan Brian, M||UVA/SR||10||13||44||12|
|Brittany Ratcliffe, M/F||UVA/JR||10||6||52||31|
|Shea Groom, M/F||TAMU/SR||16||7||79||33|
|Kelley Monogue, M/F||TAMU/SR||17||10||98||44|
|Allie Bailey, F||TAMU/SR||10||5||51||30|
|Player||Minutes||Goals Allowed (GA)||GA Average||Saves|
|Morgan Stearns (UVA)||1803||12||0.60||34|
|Jordan Day (TAMU)||983||7||0.64||44|
Chris Henderson from All White Kit (who is a must-follow on Twitter for women's college soccer) has already put together a quick graphical preview of the lineups you can expect to see from these two teams. As you'll see below, the Aggies line up in their familiar 4-3-3, while Virginia is more likely to come out in a 4-4-2 with a diamond midfield.
As you saw in the table earlier, Makenzy Doniak is the primary player to keep an eye on up top, but midfielder Morgan Brian is the main star for the Cavaliers. Brian is dangerous in the scoring department as well, as she netted what would prove to be the game-winning goal for the Cavaliers in their win over UCLA, but she is the most decorated player on the Virginia roster. Brian was last year's Hermann Trophy winner, she has been first-team All-ACC in all four years at Virginia, she was named as a finalist for US Soccer's Young Female Athlete of the Year a couple weeks ago, and she was the only collegiate player on the US National Team's roster for CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying. It is safe to say that shutting down Brian will be a major focal point for the Aggies. Starting centerbacks Sonnett (5'7") and McNabb (5'5") have unsurprisingly logged the most minutes for Virginia this season, with 1982 and 1997 respectively, and both have the potential to be potential scoring threats with 4 goals apiece. Sonnett, in fact, scored the Cavaliers' first goal of the game against UCLA.
Virginia has given up just 14 goals in 24 games, and they posted 3 consecutive shutouts in the NCAA Tournament before allowing a goal to the Bruins. The problem is that, unlike Penn State, the Cavaliers are also extremely dangerous in the attacking third as well. Doniak logged a hat trick in Virginia's 7-0 romp of Kentucky in the Sweet 16, and the team has outscored opponents by a jaw-dropping 20-1 in the Tournament.
Virginia finished 3rd in the extremely strong ACC during the regular season, behind Florida State and North Carolina, and just ahead of A&M's Sweet 16 opponent Notre Dame. The Cavaliers and Aggies do happen to have a couple of common opponents this season, starting with the Fighting Irish who both teams beat by the same 2-1 scoreline. Virginia also took on Tennessee back in September, actually just a week before the Vols came to Ellis Field. That game was a 2-1 victory for Virginia, while A&M took down UT comfortably by a score of 3-0. The aformentioned 7-0 pasting of Kentucky certainly impresses more than A&M's 2 victories over the Wildcats which were of the 2-1 and 1-0 varieties. Outside of that, other notable results on Virginia's schedule include both of their losses which came against Florida State, both by a 1-0 score and the second of which came in the ACC Tournament Final, and a pair of 2-0 results over two very good teams in Virginia Tech and North Carolina.
All of that is essentially to say that this is a very, very, very talented Virginia squad and it is likely going to require A&M to play a nearly perfect game in order to advance to the Championship. Jordan Day has been the Aggies' MVP over the last month, and she was especially outstanding in the Elite Eight win over Penn State, and she will need to continue that level of play. Freshman Mikaela Harvey played her best game of the season (in my opinion) against the Nittany Lions, and that is a big benefit for the Aggies to have her coming off the bench. Both A&M centerbacks - Meghan Streight and McKayla Paulson - were excellent in that Elite Eight game as well, and Allie Bailey's relentless hustle was obviously the main difference for the Aggies in that win. Normally outstanding central midfielder Janae Cousineau did not have one of her best games on Saturday night, and A&M absolutely needs her at her best to disrupt that impressive Virginia midfield.
This is a truly special Texas A&M team, and I have no doubt that these players badly want to bring home one more trophy. It will most certainly be a battle between two very good soccer teams, but A&M will need to do a better job of maintaining possession than they did against both Notre Dame and Penn State in order to take down the Cavaliers. I will be heading out to Boca Raton early on Friday, and I can't wait to see what the Aggies can do. BTHO Virginia!