Following the 0-0 draw against the No. 1-ranked Virginia Cavaliers on Wednesday night, the NC State women’s soccer team will be turning its attention toward another school from the neighbors to the north as Virginia Tech heads to Dail Soccer Field on Sunday.
The No. 20 Hokies (9-3-1, 1-3-1 ACC) come to Raleigh as the fourth ranked opponent that the Wolfpack (6-4-3, 1-1-3 ACC) has faced in ACC play so far. In the three previous games against ranked ACC opponents, the Pack has a record of 0-1-2, but only conceded two goals across those three games.
The Hokies are less offensively gifted than the other ranked opponents the Pack has faced so far, averaging just 1.62 goals per game compared to the 3.15, 2.54 and 2.00 of Virginia, UNC-Chapel Hill and Duke, respectively.
Where the Hokies do compare to the Wolfpack’s other difficult opponents is in the defense as they average just 0.77 goals against per game. A solid portion of that defensive stability comes from senior goalkeeper Mandy McGlynn who boasts an impressive 0.851 save percentage this season.
The Wolfpack also boasts solid defensive numbers with just 0.85 goals against per game this season. Led by an experienced core which includes both team captains, the Wolfpack’s defense has been the strongest part of the team so far this season.
Like the Hokies, the Wolfpack has a solid upperclassman in net with junior Jessica Berlin, averaging three saves for every goal she concedes. Berlin was one of the major factors in the Wolfpack getting a draw against Virginia as the keeper made several crucial saves during the game.
With two stout defenses set to battle it out, expect the match to be very low scoring and a tight battle until the end.
If anyone on the Wolfpack looks set to break through the wall that is the Hokies defense, it is senior forward Tziarra king who has already grabbed 10 goals this season. If King is unable to find the back to the net, the Pack could struggle to score at all as no other player on the team has more than two goals this season with three players reaching that tally.
For the Hokies, the goalscoring is by committee, as their leading scorer, Nicole Kozlova, has just five goals this season. Shortly behind Kozlova are Emily Gray and Mikayla Mance who have four and three goals, respectively.
In a game that will likely be decided by just one or two goals, the Pack will need to strike early and continue its streak of solid defensive performances if the team is going to pick up its second ACC win of the year. If the offense does not start firing and the Wolfpack continues to draw these games, a spot in the ACC Tournament is not a sure thing for the eighth-place Wolfpack, as only the top eight teams in conference play make the tournament.