Virginia Tech Men’s Soccer Team Looking to Build On Three-Straight NCAA Tournament Appearances
The Virginia Tech men’s soccer team made it to their third straight NCAA Tournament last season, receiving a national seed and advancing to the Sweet 16.
Though Tech lost 3-0 at Thompson Field to James Madison to end last season, they return with promise and experience, leading to a top 25 ranking and the belief that a deeper run in the NCAA Tournament is possible this season.
Ten players started at least ten matches last season, including Mathijs Swaneveld, who started all 21 matches for the Hokies.
A junior from Schoonhoven, The Netherlands, Swaneveld played every minute of Tech’s 2018 season and kept five shutouts while also leading the ACC with 95 saves. The Third Team All-ACC nominee in 2018 will have a veteran group of backs in front of him this season.
Seniors Jon Ingason, Will Mejia and James Kasak, who hold a combined 108 starts in 142 games in their careers in Blacksburg, will lead the back four.
Combine their experience with that of junior Jakob Bluemler (27 starts in 36 appearances) and sophomore Sivert Haugli (started all 20 games last season) and head coach Mike Brizendine has a solid back line that he can rely on.
Marc Hoppler and Nikal Clarke-Smith, two seniors that saw time in a combined 31 matches last season, also provide some depth at the back for Brizendine.
In the scrimmage against Old Dominion, the defense was solid and held their own, with Haugli playing more of a center defensive midfielder role in front of the back four.
Named Second Team All-ACC last fall, Kristo Strickler returns to Blacksburg to anchor the midfield. The junior led the team with 10 goals last season and will look to provide an attacking presence yet again.
Juniors Emil Koho and Cameron Lennon will line up alongside Strickler. Koho played in 13 games last season while Lennon played in 14. Still, they each have two seasons under their belt, just like Strickler.
Redshirt sophomore Justus Kauppinen showed some flare in the preseason scrimmages on the wing and will see some time in the midfield this season. After missing the 2018 season due to injury, Kauppinen should provide some scoring to an offense that will have multiple weapons.
Sophomore Chris Little should see more action in the midfield as well – he only played in nine games last season as a freshman. In a hokiesports.com article in August, Brizendine said that he believes Little will have “breakout year,” something the Hokies would love to have.
The one freshman to watch in the midfield is Daniel Pereira. The 5’9” center midfielder from Roanoke, Va., played his high school ball just a small distance away at Northside High School. He started the home scrimmage against Old Dominion for Brizendine & Co. and hinting at the skills he will unveil this season.
Nico Quashie leads the charge up top for the Hokies, and he’ll be backed by Strickler in the midfield. The redshirt junior tallied six goals and two assists last season in 19 starts, only coming off the bench once. He also scored two game-winning goals, so he will be Tech’s top threat up top.
If Brendan Moyers is healthy, he will provide a huge leadership boost, whether it be in the middle of the park or up top. In the 12 games he played in because of time missed due to injury, he scored three goals. The senior started 45 of 54 matches in his four-year career and will be a big part of this team if he can stay healthy.
Khalil Dover will be a player to watch when paired up top with Quashie. The sophomore played in all but one game last season for the Hokies, recording one assist.
He’ll see some time alongside junior Jacob Labovitz, a transfer from Fairleigh Dickinson. Named Northeast Conference Rookie of the Year for the 2017 season, he recorded seven goals for the Knights. His play in the scrimmages against Old Dominion and Georgetown was impressive as well.
The two freshmen to watch up top are Nick Blacklock and Alex Adjetey.
Blacklock played for the Philadelphia Union Academy before coming to Blacksburg and showed promising signs in the scrimmages on the wing.
Adjetey was named a third team All-American forward at South Kent School in Connecticut in high school. Against Old Dominion, he played well on the wing, cutting up some defenders and getting some good combinations in.
The Hokies’ roster runs very deep this season, as it will need to.
Tech has a challenging schedule in both the nonconference – Georgetown, Princeton and Grand Canyon, all teams that reached the NCAA Tournament in 2018 – and in the challenging Atlantic Coast Conference.
Mike Brizendine’s squad hosts North Carolina, Notre Dame and Virginia in conference play – all teams that made the NCAA Tournament last season.
Their toughest challenge on the road in conference play will come in Durham in their last regular season game.
ACC play starts on September 13 against North Carolina, but Tech travels out west for a pair of games before that.
The Hokies face Loyola Marymount on Friday, August 30 in Los Angeles and UC Santa Barbara on Sunday, September 1 in Santa Barbara.
Will the Hokies make a return trip to the Sweet 16 and make their fourth straight NCAA Tournament appearance? The team’s journey to a fourth-straight NCAA appearance starts on Friday in California.