Morgan Brian was the top-ranked soccer recruit in the country coming out of Frederica Academy in Georgia in 2011, with her choice of college destinations.
And Brian says the opportunity she will get this weekend -- the Cavaliers will make their first College Cup in 22 years this Friday when they face UCLA in the national semifinals -- is a big reason why she chose Virginia.
"I mean for me, that was a big part of my decision," Brian, a junior midfielder, said Tuesday. "And I knew that Steve is a great coach, and he has great players here that surround the program, and it was definitely doable for this program."
"We're really excited. Especially since Virginia hasn't been in the College Cup for a while now," said sophomore forward Makenzy Doniak. "I think this year just proves that we've done such a great job. And I think we're just excited for Friday night, and that's all we can focus on right now."
Virginia is the top seed in this year's NCAA Tournament. They've outscored their opponents 10-1 in four tournament games to this point, all at Klöckner Stadium.
This weekend will mark the program's second-ever trip to the Final Four of women's soccer. The program is in search of its first-ever national title.
"For us, it was one of our goals to begin with," Brian said. "And I think right now, it's not one of those things where we're like, "Oh, we made the Final Four. It's over with," kind of thing. But I don't think that's the way we look at it right now. We're in the Final Four, and we still have goals to achieve."
Brian and Doniak also made news on Tuesday, as the only teammates included on the list of 15 semifinalists for this year's Hermann Trophy, given to the top player in college soccer each season.
Brian leads the ACC with 46 points this season. Her 14 assists lead the conference -- and matches the UVa single-season record -- and she has at least one goal in all four NCAA Tournament wins for the Cavaliers this postseason.
"I mean, I think everyone knows Morgan is amazing," Doniak said. "I think the thing that stands out to me is, she's just a leader. During practice and in games, off the field. She just leads the team in every way possible."
Doniak is second in the ACC with 44 points this year. Her 19 goals is one shy of the UVa single-season record, and she leads the team with six game-winning goals -- including two in the NCAA Tournament.
"This year we've been kind of special together," Brian said of Doniak. "I think she's assisted a lot of the goals I've scored on, and I think I've assisted her in a lot of ways. So we've complimented each other, and I think last year we didn't really have that chemistry as well. But I think this year we've kind of bloomed together, and that's what has made this offense go."
The Cavaliers are surrounded by familiar faces in this year's semifinal bracket. UCLA is the only non-ACC team still standing in the tournament, with Florida State and Virginia Tech set to meet in Friday's first match.
UVa went a perfect 19-0 during the regular season, including a 13-0 record against ACC opponents. But the Cavaliers were upset by the Hokies in the semifinals of the conference tournament a month ago.
"For us, I think it shows the ACC Tournament was sometimes harder to win than the NCAA Tournament, with three out of the four teams being in the Final Four," Brian said. "So I think it's nothing but good for us. And I think it's great experience that we're taking into the Final Four."
"I think the non-conference season has prepared us for the conference season. I think the conference season has prepared us for postseason," said UVa coach Steve Swanson. "And hopefully all of this, cumulatively, has prepared us for the College Cup."
Friday's match will be UCLA's ninth all-time appearance in the College Cup. The Bruins advanced by knocking off another ACC team -- defending national champion North Carolina -- 1-0 in double overtime last Saturday in Chapel Hill.
"We'll have to play well to win," Swanson said. "But we've had to do that throughout the year, and I think we can take confidence in that."
"I think something about this team this year is really special," said Doniak. "And I think we definitely, it's within reach to win a national championship. And I think this is the year to do it."
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