Makenzy Doniak was asked Wednesday which would be bigger for the Virginia women's soccer team: finishing the regular season unbeaten, or beating cross-state rival Virginia Tech.
"I think they both go hand-in-hand," the sophomore forward replied with a laugh. "A win would be just great, and knock out both of those."
The top-ranked Cavaliers have a chance to do both on Thursday night at Klöckner Stadium, when they host the No. 5 Hokies. That match will mark the first-ever top five showdown between the two schools, in any sport.
"I mean, I can speak personally on this issue. It's definitely a huge motivator to have them coming in here," said UVa senior midfielder Kate Norbo, who attended Patrick Henry High School in Roanoke.
"And just for the fact that it could put us in a position to have a totally undefeated regular season. That's something that's never been accomplished here," Norbo added. "And it would be a well-deserved feat for this team."
The 18-0 Cavaliers have spent the last seven weeks as the consensus No. 1 team in the national polls. They're trying to become the first team since Stanford in 2009 to finish the regular season unbeaten.
"It's something that all of us just want really badly this year," Norbo said. "And I know there are hundreds of teams out there that want the same thing, but I just think that there's something really special about this team and how we work together."
"It would mean so much to me, and my team. It would just be awesome, a great accomplishment," said Doniak. "It wasn't one of the goals that we set. But now that it's within reach, we definitely want to make it happen."
Thursday's match will be UVa's fourth game this season against a team ranked in the top five nationally, and its sixth against a top 10 team. The Hokies will bring a 14-2-2 record to Charlottesville, following their 1-0 win at home over Miami on Sunday.
"They're a little more of a surprise to the rest of the country, not really to us," UVa coach Steve Swanson said of Virginia Tech's success this season. "Just because we're so close to them, and we know what a good program they have. They're well-coached, and we've had a lot of great games with them over our recent history. So I expect this to be a very difficult, challenging game."
UVa enters Thursday's game 2-12-1 all-time against Virginia Tech. The Hokies' last win in the series came in 2009 at Klöckner, a 2-1 victory over the 18th-ranked Cavaliers.
"I think this game, whether it happens at the beginning of the year, middle of the year, end of the year, it doesn't really matter," Swanson said of the rivalry between the two programs. "I think we're both going to have to be ready to play, and we both have to play our best to win."
"They're always our rivals. Our school rivals, not just soccer," said Doniak. "So I think hopefully a lot of fans will come, and it will be a good game."
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