Virginia poised to capitalize on extended preseason
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 SPORTS) -- While most teams are beginning fall training camp learning names and adjusting to a new team, Virginia women's soccer is already months ahead after an extended preseason.
"This is a natty season, I'm hoping, going to get out there and work hard every day," senior goalie Cayla White said, "We're putting in the work now in preseason, so I'm really hoping that we come out on top this year."
The Cavaliers started their summer with a two-week tour of Italy with stops in Rome, Florence and Como and three games along the way. The overseas tour was the first for the program since 2017 and the trip gave Steve Swanson's preseason ranked No. 5 team in the country a leg up.
"For us it was a real valuable experience, not to mention just a great cultural experience," Swanson said, "There's a lot of things we got out of it and hopefully it'll put us a little further ahead."
UVA departed on their annual nine-day training camp in Michigan, where they will play exhibitions against Notre Dame and Ohio State before opening the season on August 17 against Nevada. Swanson returns 22 players from last season's Elite Eight squad, who posted five wins over nationally ranked teams.
The team will be without first team All-American forward Lia Godfrey and captain Emma Dawson this season though after both suffered season-ending injuries. With Godfrey out, the Cavaliers will be without their top three in points tallied between Hailey Hopkins, Godfrey and Alexa Spaanstra.
One of those expected to help fill the void is sophomore Maggie Cagle, who finished last season with four goals and led all Division I freshmen with 12 assists. Cagle did not make the trip to Italy, while she and teammate Jill Flammia helped the United States U20 Women’s Youth National Team qualify for the FIFA U20 Women’s World Cup.
"This team is super special already and the freshman group coming in and already being able to go on that trip has been awesome," Cagle said, "We have just such a tight-knit group so far."
One advantage to the preseason trip was bringing in a highly rated freshman class early, which includes two IMG Top 10 recruits in midfielder Yuna McCormack and goalie Victoria Safradin.
"We took the first years in pretty quickly, got them acclimated within the team and now we're hitting the ground running," White said.
Swanson says his biggest concern heading into the season is the Cavaliers' ability to score goals consistently against the "big teams" with fellow ACC rivals North Carolina (No. 2), Notre Dame (No. 3) and Duke (No. 4) all in the preseason top five. But the early start and trip to Michigan has Swanson confident heading into the season.
"A lot of upside and a lot advantages for us, hopefully like I said that will help us," Swanson said, "We've already seen signs of that in the first couple training sessions."