Last season, the Virginia Tech women’s soccer team upset Texas and Arkansas in the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament to make it to the Sweet 16.
This season, they are looking to make it back there.
The Hokies feature a roster that returns all but two starters: defender Alia Abu El Hawa and midfielder Heather Timothy. Tech also has 19 of its 20 goals scored returning, a very positive sign for Chugger Adair, who enters his 9th season as head coach of the Hokies, as he looks to continue to lead the Hokies back up in the women's soccer pantheon after a couple down years prior to last season.
Tech’s attack is led by Karlie Johnson, the Hokies’ leading goal scorer last season as a freshman. Three of her six goals were game winners, and she provided that threat that Tech needed up top at times.
Johnson will be joined by Bridget Patch, Allyson Brown and Emma Steigerwald in the Hokies’ attack. Each contributed one goal last season, all three of which were game winners.
Redshirt freshman Nicole Kozlova will also help out the attack after missing the 2018 season with an ACL injury. The redshirt freshman from Toronto has seen time with the Ukranian National Team, including receiving an invitation to the Senior National Team camp in June.
Emily Gray anchors the midfield for the Hokies alongside Lilly Weber, Jordan Hemmen, Kiersten Hening and Emmalee McCarter.
Gray was named to the All-ACC Freshman team last season after leading Tech with six assists. She also added two goals from her center midfield position in her 17 shots on goal on the season, tied with Hemmen for the most on the team.
With the experience of Weber, Tech's midfield is in good hands.
Weber missed the final half of the season due to an injury but provided depth when healthy. Her width down the flank will create chances for the strikers in the box, a tactic that led Tech to victory multiple times last season.
McCarter provides the Hokies with some depth at both the midfield and forward positions. The sophomore started all but two matches last season and recorded one assist.
Hemmen and Hening will provide the midfield with a spark but also provide some depth for the back line when needed. Hemmen recorded four goals last season, three of which were game winners. Her header in overtime against Arkansas sent the Hokies through to the Sweet 16.
Hening will also add a spark in the midfield - she assisted the game winning goal in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament against No. 17 Texas.
The Back Five
Tech enters the season with three of the four starters returning, including All-ACC Third Team defender Kelsey Irwin. Both Irwin and Jaylyn Thompson have started 53 of 55 games during their time in Blacksburg, giving Adair two very experienced anchors on the back line.
The two are joined by Hemmen, Hening and Olivia Odle, who missed the first seven weeks of last year's season with an injury. Hemmen and Hening give Adair reliable options in the back but also great attacking options when going forward. Odle, the redshirt sophomore, has a few years under her belt and will give Tech some more experience.
In the net, All-ACC First Team goalkeeper Mandy McGlynn returns for one final season. She has started 56 matches in her career, the most on this Tech roster, and kept 10 clean sheets last season, tied for most in the ACC. McGlynn has also received call-ups to some of the youth national U.S. soccer teams during her time in Blacksburg and enters this season as one of the nation's best goalkeepers.
No one should be surprised if McGlynn is contending for All-American status if she plays up to expectations this season.
Chugger Adair's side was ranked 25th in the preseason AP Top 25 and won their two scrimmages, defeating Marshall 3-0 and West Virginia 2-1.
The Hokies open their non-conference play on August 22 at home against Liberty. The two teams faced off in a preseason scrimmage last season that ended in a scoreless tie.
After their home opener, Tech hosts Cincinnati before playing Georgia and Auburn in Athens. They return home to host Alabama at Thompson Field before concluding their home non-conference play with Yale. They will then travel to Wilmington to play the College of Charleston and UNCW before the beginning of ACC play.
Virginia Tech played Georgia (0-0 T), Alabama (0-1 L) and UNCW (2-1 W) last season. The three non-conference foes will test Adair's side very early, giving them time to hit their stride before ACC play begins.
In conference play, Tech hosts No. 1 Florida State, No. 8 Duke and No. 23 Wake Forest. They'll have to travel to No. 2 North Carolina, No. 9 Virginia and No. 21 NC State.
Overall, it is a favorable schedule for the Hokies. ACC play is never easy, but non-conference play will give them time to get into their groove. Hosting the reigning National Champions Florida State at home will be a huge contest, along with hosting fellow preseason ranked opponents Duke and Wake Forest should provide two more exciting games with major implications for fans.
Meanwhile, traveling to Chapel Hill, Charlottesville, Raleigh will give the Hokies some of their toughest road matches and give a barometer for how dangerous this team can be should they make a return trip to NCAAs as expected.
Adair and the Hokies return plenty of experience and talent. If the Hokies can get off to a hot start, they will be dangerous come ACC play.
Photo Credit: Dave Knachel/Virginia Tech Athletics
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