Virginia women’s soccer coach Steve Swanson has a problem this fall that most coaches dream about. He has so much talent up top and in the midfield that he has to get creative with how he uses it.
“We’ll have to look at that and determine what is the best rotation and the best options for us,” Swanson said after Friday's opener against Colgate. “The nice thing is, depending on what we need from game to game, we can utilize the players who have those strengths.”
The forwards and midfielders have been dominant in the Cavaliers’ first two games. After Sunday’s 3-0 victory over Cincinnati, they’ve outscored their first two opponents, 5-1.
Senior midfielders Betsy Brandon and Montana Sutton have barely left the field. Sophomore Sydney Zandi was all over the field against Colgate, and against the Bearcats, she tied Courtney Peterson with a team-high three shots.
When she returns, junior Zoe Morse is likely to claim one of those starting spots. After making her first career start on Friday, former Western Albemarle standout Anna Sumpter was the first midfielder off the bench on Sunday.
“We can be very, very dangerous with our combinations,” Sumpter said. “We have some players who can play really fast, and we can create some really cool chances.”
Sumpter attempted a pair of shots on Sunday and had several near-miss assists on passes to forward Meghan McCool, who is going to play a large offensive role this season. The duo also just missed on several goals against Colgate.
Sumpter and McCool spent plenty of time in the offseason working on that chemistry, and it’s paying off.
“It’s nice playing underneath her. She’s a great No. 9, and she’s really solid up top,” Sumpter said. “Playing under her, it’s really easy to be creative, and that’s going to create a lot of chances.”
On Sunday, McCool was up top with sophomore Taryn Torres, who made her debut after missing much of the preseason because she was playing on the U.S. U20 team in the FIFA World Cup.
After tying former UVa star Veronica Latsko last season with a team-high eight goals, Torres didn't miss a beat. On two total shots Sunday, she put up a goal and an assist. Her assist went to speedy freshman Rebecca Jarrett, who scored her first collegiate goal with a little less than eight minutes to play.
Should the need arise, McCool’s development as a scorer gives Swanson the option to play Torres in the midfield.
“Taryn raises the bar and raises the standard in terms of distribution,” Swanson said, “and she’s a very good finisher, which we found out last year.”
Forward Ayan Adu came into her senior season with three career goals. She stole a pass in Cincinnati territory on Sunday and notched her second goal of the season.
Add speedy scorer Alissa Gorzak and highly touted freshmen such as Jarrett and Alexa Spaanstra to that group of strikers, and it's easy to see why the Cavaliers (2-0) expect to rack up plenty of goals this fall.
“We have a ton of potential,” Sumpter said. “It’s just about putting it in the back of the net.”
Plug and play
Torres was one of four veterans who made their debut on Sunday. Spaanstra and sophomore goalkeeper Laurel Ivory were also on the U.S. U20 team, and both started against Cincinnati.
After posting 10 shutouts last season, Ivory played all 90 minutes and recorded her first clean sheet of 2018. Facing a total of six shots, she recorded two saves.
Spaanstra recorded her first career assist after she collected a shot that ricocheted off the Bearcats’ keeper and centered it for Torres.
Morse was the only member of the U.S. team who didn’t make her debut for the Cavaliers on Sunday, but she’ll be on the field sooner rather than later.
“Zoe is a great leader, and she gives us the option to put her in the back [on defense] or in the midfield,” Swanson said.
Peterson, a junior defender, also debuted in the starting lineup on Sunday after serving a one-game suspension for a red card that was issued last season in a Sweet 16 loss to UCLA.
Some local talent will be on the field on Thursday when UVa travels to William & Mary.
Defenders Rachel DeMasters (William Monroe) and Hannah Keith (Monticello) and midfielder Grace Santos (Scottsville/homeschooled) started both of the Tribe's exhibition wins over Wake Forest and George Mason and a pair of close losses to Maryland and Dayton in last week's JMU Invitational.
Keith, a junior, started 18 matches last season, including a CAA quarterfinal game against JMU. DeMasters only saw action in two games last fall, but she owns William Monroe records for goals in a season (65), goals in a game (8) and assists in a season (35).
Santos, a true freshman, played club soccer for SOCA in Charlottesville and for Aromas Cafe FC. She also was a member of the Virginia Olympic Development team, which made the semifinals of the 2016-17 Virginia State Cup. William & Mary (0-2) and Virginia square off at 7 p.m. on Thursday.