BLACKSBURG, Va. - The Virginia Tech Athletics Department has announced the final schedule for the 2008 women's soccer season. Including 12 of the 64 teams from last season's NCAA Tournament, the 2008 schedule features matches against national runner-up Florida State and standouts Texas A&M, Virginia, and North Carolina.
In 2007, the Hokies posted a winning record, but barely missed out on postseason play. "Last year was a great year for us," said Tech women's head coach Kelly Cagle, "but we need to be a more consistent team from the very beginning to the very end in order to secure a postseason bid."
Virginia Tech will kick off the season on the road at Davidson on Aug. 23. After hosting two matches versus Evansville on Aug. 29 and George Mason on Aug. 31, the Orange and Maroon will participate in two tournaments on consecutive weekends. The Hokies will hold the Hawthorn Suites Invitational on Sept. 5 and 7 at Virginia Tech Soccer Stadium, and then travel to the Wake Forest Nike Tournament in Winston-Salem, N.C. on Sept. 12 and 14.
Both tournaments field solid competition as Texas A&M marks Tech's first major test of the season when the Aggies travel to Blacksburg on Sept. 5. In 2007, A&M was knocked out in the second round of the NCAA's after reaching the Big 12 semifinals. In Tech's second contest of the Hawthorn Suites Invitational on Sept. 7, the Hokies will renew their old Atlantic-10 rivalry with George Washington, as the two squads competed against each other between 1995-2000. Wake Forest, the fourth team in the tournament, also plays A&M and GW, but will not face Tech until their Oct. 30 match-up in Blacksburg.
In addition to playing Texas A&M and George Washington at home, the Hokies also have contests against two NCAA Tournament participants from last year in Big West champion Cal State Fullerton (Sept. 12) and Atlantic-10 champion UNC-Charlotte (Sept. 14) at the Wake Forest Nike Tournament. Before heading into the always-dangerous ACC schedule, Tech will host the 14th all-time contest between the Hokies and in-state rival James Madison on Set. 21.
VT dives into conference play with their longest road trip of the year, beginning at Miami on Sept. 25. Tech then travels to Tallahassee to battle Florida State on Sept. 28. The Seminoles boasted one of the NCAA's top offenses a year ago and fell to Southern California, 2-0, in the College Cup title game. After a short break, the Hokies hit the road again on Oct. 2 against Clemson for their third consecutive match away from Blacksburg. Last season, Tech scored a goal with 53 seconds remaining in the game to tie the Tigers for the second straight year.
The Hokies return home on Oct. 5 to take on NC State, followed by matches against two of the ACC's elite, at home against in-state rival Virginia on Oct. 9 and on the road in Chapel Hill against North Carolina on Oct. 12. UNC won both the ACC regular season and tournament championships in 2007, and both the Cavaliers and the Tar Heels lost in the third round of the NCAA Tournament a year ago.
The Longwood Lancers travel to Blacksburg for Tech's last non-conference match-up of 2008 on Oct. 15, followed by VT's return to ACC play at home on Oct. 19 against the Maryland Terrapins. The Hokies close out the regular season against three tough ACC rivals. Boston College will look to avenge their 3-0 loss at the hands of the Hokies in 2007 on Oct. 26 in Chestnut Hill, Mass. Wake Forest comes to Blacksburg on Oct. 30, and Tech will end the regular season at home on Senior Day versus Duke on Nov. 2. The Blue Devils defeated the Hokies last season in overtime en route to advancing to the NCAA quarterfinals.
"This season may be the most balanced we've seen in the ACC," said Cagle. "There are no up-and-coming programs in the ACC anymore; no teams that can be taken for granted. We have to set ourselves up in a positive fashion both in conference and non-conference play in order to take the risks necessary to make the postseason."
The eight ACC teams with the best conference records head to the ACC Tournament, which will be held in Cary, N.C. Nov. 5-9. Tech will look to make their first trip to the ACC's since 2004 and second trip to the NCAA Tournament in program history, after missing out on the ACC's in 2007 due to a conference tiebreaker rule with Clemson. The NCAA Tournament, also held in Cary, N.C., kicks off on Nov. 14-16.
This year's squad will be primed to make a run at the postseason as the returning players accounted for 19 of 27 goals scored and 21 of 29 assists posted in 2007, led by All-ACC and Freshman All-American forward Marika Gray. Goalkeeper Ashley Owens along with Freshman All-American defender Kelly Lynch will help anchor a defense that allowed a program record-low 20 goals against 18 opponents last season.
For updates on Virginia Tech women's soccer, follow the Hokies on Twitter (@VT_WSoccer).