04 Sep Tech bids to dethrone defending champs, No. 9 Santa Clara
THREE THINGS TO KNOW
• Tourney Opener: Virginia Tech won its opening match at the Fairfield by Marriott Invitational, defeating host James Madison, 3-2, on Thursday. Senior midfielder Emily Gray recorded the Hokies’ first hat trick since 2009 to power Tech to victory, doubling her season goals count to tie for the ACC lead (six). Considering the 2021 calendar year, Gray has netted goals during seven of the Hokies’ nine matches, helping Tech achieve a 7-2-0 record during the stretch. She has also gained the reputation for being one of the nation’s most dangerous set piece takers, having scored or assisted on five of the Hokies’ six such goals this season.
• Dethroning the Champs: Santa Clara’s 2020 national championship (earned during the spring of 2021) marked the program’s second all-time and its first since 2001. The Broncos prevailed at the College Cup against three ACC semifinalists, defeating No. 2 North Carolina, 3-1, before edging No. 1 Florida State (1-1, 4-1 on penalty kicks) to bring home the hardware. With Santa Clara ranked No. 9, Tech is seeking its second top-15 win across as many seasons, having toppled No. 14 Pittsburgh, 2-0, in October 2020. The Hokies are also chasing their first point against the defending national champion since October 2015, when Tech played to a scoreless draw against No. 1 Florida State in Blacksburg. Sunday will mark the third all-time meeting between the Hokies and the Broncos; Tech is 0-1-1 all-time, though defeated No. 9 Santa Clara on penalty kicks during the 2013 NCAA tournament (round of 16).
• Let’s Do It Again: In a weird scheduling quirk, Virginia Tech’s men’s and women’s programs are facing the defending national champion in their sport, one week apart, during neutral-site matches at James Madison’s Sentara Park. On Aug. 29, Tech’s No. 15 men’s team came back from 2-0 down to defeat No. 1 Marshall, 3-2, in Harrisonburg. Heading into Sunday, the women’s team is eager to replicate the success of its sibling program as the Hokies eye a marquee non-conference victory.
Virginia Tech will return home to Thompson Field on Thursday, Sept. 9, when the Hokies welcome Villanova for a non-conference match. Kickoff is scheduled for 5 p.m.
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