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No. 3 FSU soccer meets No. 1 Virginia tomorrow: Let’s meet the Cavaliers

We are lucky to have Hoos Place soccer writer Val Prochaska join us to help us learn about UVA.

Soccer: Women’s College Cup Nell Redmond-USA TODAY Sports

Florida State and Virginia will meet tomorrow at 7pm at the Seminole Soccer Complex. The winner of this game will claim the ACC regular season championship. Virginia will be the champions if the game is a draw.

The game is important for FSU for another reason. If FSU loses and Duke wins at Louisville the Noles will drop to third in the ACC standings and will be forced to play an extra game in the ACC Tournament.

With that in mind we would like to welcome Val Prochaska of Hoos Place to answer our questions about the Virginia Cavaliers.

1. I’ll start with the obvious. Rebecca Jarrett has been lost for the season. How big a deal is her loss for the team and how has UVA tried to make up for her absence?

It’s a huge deal for Jarrett has elite speed, the kind of speed you have to game plan for. She is a one-person fast break, capable of going coast to coast, and I’m not sure that can even be game planned. The loss is significant because if there was ever a year that would be Virginia’s year, this would be it. Save for Alyssa Gorzak, we brought back our entire College Cup team.

The way we’ve adapted to her absence is partly answered by your second question below, and by our moving Alexa Spaanstra to the right. I think Spaanstra is better on the right side. Last year I think her play suffered all season, maybe from a knock she picked up against Clemson, but she is back to her best.

2. Haley Hopkins has transferred in from Vanderbilt for her 5th year. She was a two time All SEC first teamer (and was on the second team another year). What dimension has she added to the team?

Well, Hopkins is the part of your answer to loss of Jarrett. Hopkins is the real deal, and I might add that she was third-team All American twice. She’s playing left wing for the team, which is a new position for her and she’s learning on the fly. The team tactical adjustment is not so great as might be thought because three seasons ago when Diana Ordonez blazed on the scene, coach Steve Swanson moved 10-goal center forward Meg McCool out wide, and that team was ranked #1 for eight weeks.

Hopkins is a classic #9, a true center forward. She is not as good on the ground as Ordonez – she’s missed some bunnies this year – but she is better in the air. She’s scored two goals where the ball has simply exploded of her forehead. She’s learning to time her runs, allowing Ordonez to go first and drag the first (or two) defenders with her, leaving space for Hopkins.

3. Is the bench a strength or a weakness for this team?

The bench is a strength for Virginia mostly because Virginia has largely been healthy this year. Last year was horrific – Taryn Torres, Anna Sumpter, and Sydney Zandi, or our three starting midfielders all missed 9 or more games – and only two players featured in every game. Other than losing Jarrett, the Virginia lineup has been remarkably consistent. This has allowed the bench to learn their roles and how to fit in with the starters. The breakout star, for me, has been Alexis Theoret, who has a wonderful dead ball delivery and seems primed to inherit the Taryn Torres role next year. Look for her to play 45 minutes on Thursday.

4. What factor or factors give you confidence about UVA’s chances in this game and what worries you?

What worries me the most is that you are Florida State and you’ve basically had our number over the past several years. You’re in our heads, as witnessed by our complete meltdown in penalty kicks during last year’s College Cup game. Beating you with silverware on the line would be a new experience for us.

Other than Jarrett, Virginia has one significant injury (potentially). Samar Guidry, our left back, has missed the past two games. Guidry may be the best dribbler in the ACC and she can pin your ears back.

And my last worry is that our defense is lacking a bit. It’s a far cry from air tight and we’ve conceded stupid goals, in games that we dominated, to Notre Dame, Louisville and Miami. Claire Constant is not as good as she was last year. We’ve had some shocking brain farts on the back line.

As for sources of confidence, well, this team simply does not quit. Florida State will have bring it for all 90 (or more) minutes. And your guys know this, so it’s not going to be a surprise, but this team is relentless. Our forward players are much better at pressing the opponent this year and that’s due to Ordonez’ play off ball and Lia Godfrey’s defense on-ball. Watch how Godfrey plays defense: she’ll just step in-between the player and ball once the opponent starts dribbling. It’s so elegant. And lastly, this team does have firepower. If Haley Hopkins is your third best goal scorer, well, your team will go far.

5. I know that you don’t love predictions but if you have one we would love to hear it.

Umm, if Virginia doesn’t secure the ACC regular season title I will be pissed?

Look, for as fine a team as Virginia has been over the Swanson era, he’s only been to the College Cup three times, won a pair of ACC tournaments, and, as near as I can tell, only won two regular season titles. I want more silverware. I want this championship. You guys opened the door with your North Carolina trip, and I want us to take it.

But for a game prediction? <<Chuckles>> I am so very bad at predictions…. OK, if Haley Hopkins scores, we’re winning the game.

6. Are there any other comments you have about the game?

For the last 5 or 6 years, Virginia and Florida State have been two of the very best teams in the country. It’s no surprise that this is the last game of the ACC regular season, and it could very well be the first of three games between the Noles and the Hoos over the next month. Buckle up. It could be a bumpy ride.

Thanks so much Val for your in-depth and informative answers. I answered a few of Val’s questions on Florida State and you can find my answers to his questions here on the HoosPlace site.

This critical game with first place on the line will kick off at 7:00pm at the Seminole Soccer Complex. The game will be broadcast on the ACC Network. It is Senior Night and the game has been designated a White Out Match.