The 2008 Virginia Tech women’s soccer team looked to carry over the momentum from a strong 2007 campaign and did just that, finishing with a 10-9-4 overall record and taking the program to new highs not only in the Atlantic Coast Conference but also on the national scene.
Seven freshmen joined 17 letterwinners on a roster with its eyes set on a second NCAA Tournament berth after barely missing out on an at-large bid the year before.
However, the team suffered a minor setback, dropping the opener to a tough Davidson squad on the road. After falling behind 2-0 to Evansville, the Hokies NCAA hopes seemed to be fading, but the team responded with four goals, two from junior Robin Chidester, in the second half to register its first victory in 2008.
Tech followed the win by blanking George Mason 2-0 to end the month of August with a 2-1 overall record and prepared to open September with the annual Hawthorn Suites Hokie Invitational. A tough challenge awaited the Hokies in the first match of the tourney as Tech welcomed No. 11 Texas A&M to Thompson Field. The contest headed into halftime locked at one-all, however the Aggies would pull away in the second frame for the win. Virginia Tech rebounded in the second match of the tournament, defeating George Washington 2-0.
The following weekend, the Hokies hit the road for two games in Winston-Salem, N.C., as part of the Wake Forest Nike Tournament. Goals from Emily Jukich, Stephanie Hylton and Niki King sent Tech past No. 22 Cal State Fullerton, while the Hokie defense earned its second straight shutout in the 3-0 win. Virginia Tech closed out the weekend with a 5-1 victory over Atlantic 10 champion Charlotte to move to 5-2-0 on the year.
Tech ended its non-conference slate with a match-up against in-state rival James Madison. Despite goals from Laurie Beth Puglisi and Emily Jukich, the Hokies fell to the Dukes 4-3 in overtime and took another blow, losing 2007 second-team All-ACC selection Marika Gray for the season to a knee injury late in the second half. Gray had been instrumental to the Hokie offense, recording four goals and two assists in eight contests. Her absence raised questions about the Hokies success in the up-coming ACC season, but the Hokies would quiet the doubts in the following month.
Virginia Tech opened league play at Miami, taking a 1-0 lead into the final minutes before Miami scored the equalizer with two minutes to play. Tech would leave Coral Gables with the tie and dropped a 3-1 decision to 2007 College Cup runner-up Florida State before hitting the road again bound for Clemson, S.C. A second-consecutive loss seemed near, but Tech senior Laurie Beth Puglisi knocked home the game-timing goal with a mere 48 seconds remaining in the match.
The Hokies ended their three-game road swing with a 0-1-2 league record and returned to Thompson Field to hand NC State a 3-0 loss for their first ACC win of the year. Next, Tech played host to No. 8 Virginia, a team Virginia Tech had not beaten in eight tries. Tech’s fortunes against the Cavaliers would change as junior Julian Johnson scored the game-winner and the Hokie defense held off a ferocious UVa attack down the stretch for the 1-0 win.
Tech dropped a 4-0 decision to eventual national champion, No. 2 North Carolina before rebounding with a 2-0 victory over Longwood in the final non-conference match of the season. Jukich netted the game-winner against Maryland in a tightly contested, 1-0 match and the Hokies pulled their conference record to 3-2-2 heading into the home stretch.
Virginia Tech would drop two close contests to No. 13 Boston College and No. 19 Wake Forest prior to welcoming No. 11 Duke for senior day. Puglisi headed home the game-winner as the Hokies picked up the program’s first win against the Blue Devils in program history and secured the seventh seed heading into the ACC Tournament.
The Hokies then proceeded to make ACC Tournament history, advancing past No. 5 Florida State on penalty kicks, 4-2, in the quarterfinals. Next up, Tech battled No. 12 Virginia to a 1-1 tie through regulation and two overtime periods in the semifinals. Freshman goalkeeper Kristin Carden turned in a huge performance for the Hokies in the penalty kick round, making four saves to propel Tech past its in-state rival.
Virginia Tech would eventually fall to No. 4 North Carolina in the conference championship match, but the Hokies had already became the lowest seed to ever advance past the quarterfinal round, much less make the finals, since the ACC transitioned to its current 12-team format in 2005. For its efforts, Tech was awarded the program’s second bid to the NCAA Tournament and traveled to Provo, Utah, for a match against the Cougars of BYU.
Tech’s magical run ended with a 2-0 loss at No. 22 Brigham Young, yet the Hokies had much to show for their tremendous season. The team set a new high for ACC wins in a season and finished with a winning record for the second consecutive season. Leading scorer Emily Jukich was named second-team All-ACC, second-team All-Mid-Atlantic and first-team all-state by VaSID after tallying a career-high 15 goals in 2008. Jukich will enter her senior season as Tech’s all-time leading scorer. In addition, Kelly Cagle was named Mid-Atlantic Region Coach of the Year, while five Hokies earned Academic All-ACC accolades.
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