After making a run to the Sweet 16 last year, 25th-ranked Virginia Tech Women's Soccer opened their 2019 campaign well with a 3-0 victory over Liberty. The win was a statement by the Hokies that last year was a sign of a return to national prominence for VT women's soccer and that the Hokies are more than deserving of a top 25 ranking to start the season.
Here's a look at how it all played out at Thompson Field:
Virginia Tech’s women’s soccer team got on the board early against Liberty as Molly Feighan’s shot found the back of the net.
Sophomore midfielder Emmalee McCarter threaded a ball through to Feighan, a ball that was dummied by redshirt freshman Nicole Kozlova and faked out the defenders. Feighan turned and placed the ball by the keeper.
"She [McCarter] has put a concerted effort into her defending, her positioning and her transition into attack from defending," Virginia Tech Women's Soccer Head Coach Chugger Adair said. "She's learned the outside midfielder position very well and has put a lot of effort into it."
Twenty minutes later, McCarter made an impact once again. McCarter won a 50/50 ball in the middle of the park and played the ball to the right wing. Karlie Johnson, the sophomore forward, served the ball into the box and found senior forward Mikayla Mance, who scored her first goal of the season.
At halftime, Virginia Tech led 2-0. With twenty minutes to play, the Hokies picked up their insurance goal.
Sophomore midfielder Emily Gray made an overlapping run into the box around Emma Steigerwald. The ball was slipped through and Gray played a perfect cross to freshman Mak Graham, who scored on a header.
"Emily is a workhorse," Adair said. "She covers a lot of ground and she did a good job finding space tonight. Even if she doesn't get the ball, she's always creating space for other players."
The All-ACC Freshman team midfielder combined well with Kozlova in the attack, a forward that missed last season with an ACL injury.
"Nicole has savviness to her game," Adair said. "She's got good game understanding, likes playing unpredictable balls and is a creative player."
That creativeness was seen in the first goal with Kozlova's dummy over the ball. The forward has spent a good amount of time with the under-19 Ukrainian squad, scoring three goals in 2020 European Qualifiers. Tonight, she provides a different look in the attack to an already loaded attacking roster.
Feighan, Mance, Johnson and Steigerwald all are options for Adair's side, along with Kozlova. Mance has the experience, which showed on her goal, while the others have explosiveness and pace, as shown today.
Along with Gray, sophomore midfielder Grace Sklopan showed flashes in the midfield. Her movement intertwined with Gray and the other players on the field, especially in the attack.
Seniors Jordan Hemmen and Lilly Weber also saw time in the midfield alongside Gray and Sklopan. Hemmen was solid as a center defensive midfielder, while Weber's experience paid off on the outside wing.
In the back, senior Jaylyn Thompson and graduate senior Kelsey Irwin have more than 50 games of experience. Redshirt sophomore Kara Henderson and freshman Sydney Ash also started against the Flames.
"We're still figuring out our back line a little bit but Sydney's been in the mix with that," Adair said. "I'm also very impressed with her and the rest of the freshmen; they're transitioning really well."
Senior Mandy McGlynn was solid in the back as well for the Hokies, coming up with three saves. While she did not have to do much versus the Flames, she will see more action over the next few weeks.
The Hokies host Cincinnati on Sunday at 1:00 PM before playing three SEC foes in a row - Georgia, Auburn and Alabama.
Still, Adair and the Hokies picked up the first result they needed - a 3-0 win over Liberty. Now, their focus shifts to Cincinnati, a team they have only played once in school history - Tech defeated the Bearcats 4-0 in 2015.
"I think we created great opportunities but I'd like to see more chances go in the net," Adair said. "I think we've got to put everything together too."
They will have another chance to do so this weekend on Sunday at 1:00 PM at Thompson Field versus Cincinnati.
Photo Credit: Dave Knachel/Virginia Tech Athletics
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