2018 Kickoff Nearing Ricky Walker leads a young Virginia Tech squad with hopes of returning to the top of the ACC's Coastal Division — a path that starts on Labor Day night


Virginia Tech quarterback Josh Jackson and his teammates have their sights set on a Coastal Division crown, and the first step toward that goal starts in less than two weeks

Virginia Tech opened practice for the 2018 season on Aug. 5 looking to build on the successes of the past two seasons, even though the Hokies lost seven starters on defense, three on offense and their kicker. Tech last won an ACC title in 2010, but the Hokies appear to be trending in the right direction, as they played for the league crown two seasons ago and have won 19 games in Justin Fuente’s first two years at helm.

“I’m really excited to coach this young group of eager people … We’ve got a unique challenge, and we’re certainly not starting from scratch, but we’ve got a youthful team with some huge challenges in front of us,” Fuente said. “And I can’t wait for us to meet them head on because I think we’ve got a great group that’s eager to take those challenges on.”

For Tech to bring the league’s top trophy home this season, it needs to take care of business right from the start. The Hokies open the season at Florida State on Labor Day night, and then after three non-conference games, play at an improved Duke squad and Notre Dame.

Tech’s roster features talent, but lacks experience, with only nine seniors. Still, the expectations are always going to be high in Blacksburg, and with that said, here are the top five story lines for the 2018 season:

Can a young defense continue the “Lunch Pail” tradition of dominance?

The Hokies head into this season looking to replace seven starters on a defense that ranked in the top 15 nationally in scoring defense, rushing defense and total defense in 2017. Four of those seven starters were drafted by NFL teams (Tremaine Edmunds, Terrell Edmunds, Tim Settle and Greg Stroman). But Ricky Walker and Vinny Mihota, the lone senior starters, return, along with end Trevon Hill, and they represent a strong foundation. Plus, Hokies feature the nation’s best defensive coordinator in Bud Foster.

Who will emerge at the cornerback spots?

Stroman, Brandon Facyson and Adonis Alexander are gone and junior-college transfer Jeremy Webb is out for the season (injury), so sorting out the cornerback positions probably serves as Foster’s top priority. Bryce Watts possesses the speed and the potential to be the next great Tech defensive back, and Jovonn Quillen has played in 22 games over the past two seasons (mostly on special teams). Expect a freshman or two to get early playing time. Caleb Farley, perhaps?

What can fans expect from the quarterback position?

Tech’s staff makes every position a competition to get the best out of everyone, and Ryan Willis certainly opened some eyes with his spring game performance. But Josh Jackson played well as a redshirt freshman, throwing for nearly 3,000 yards and 20 touchdowns, with just nine interceptions. He spent the offseason working on his release and accuracy. If he retains the job and gets a little more help from the personnel around him, he could have a big season.

Who replaces Cam Phillips?

Speaking of the personnel around Jackson, Tech’s staff needs to find a receiver or receivers to replace Cam Phillips, the Hokies’ all-time leader in career receptions and career receiving yardage. Unfortunately, some of those receivers (Eric Kumah, Damon Hazelton) missed spring practice with injuries. The Hokies have a lot of intriguing pieces, though, in Hezekiah Grimsley, Phil Patterson and Sean Savoy. If they all develop – and stay healthy – this could be a position of strength as the season goes along.

How do the Hokies replace Joey Slye?

With another kicker, of course, but the question is which one? Slye, a four-year starter, made 15 field goals a year ago, but more importantly, 53 of his 63 kickoffs went for touchbacks, giving Tech a leg up on field position. Brian Johnson made three field goals late last season while Slye sat out with a hamstring injury, but keep an eye on redshirt freshman Jordan Stout, who possesses the stronger leg. The competition probably will go right up until the season opener.

Jaila Tolbert, a 2017 All-ACC choice, returns this season to lead a youthful Virginia Tech squad.


The Virginia Tech volleyball program features 11 freshmen and sophomores, but the youthful Hokies are optimistic about enjoying success in Jill Wilson’s second season as the head coach

Virginia Tech head volleyball coach Jill Wilson, her staff and her team officially started practice for the 2018 season Aug. 7. Entering her second season, Wilson brings plenty of fire to her position, and after a difficult transitional year, her team is starting to follow suit.

Tech is coming off a 10-21 season, but the Hokies beat rival UVA twice, and as a result, Hokie Nation deemed the season a rousing success. Expectations are a little higher for this campaign, as the volleyball squad returns four starters and its libero from the 2017 team. Tech saw starters Cara Cunningham and Stacey Christy depart, but the returning veterans and incoming talent figure to be able to replace their production.

Jaila Tolbert headlines the group of returning players. Tolbert earned second-team All-ACC honors a season ago, and she spent a part of this summer in Detroit with a U.S. Collegiate National Team, gaining experience, and more importantly, confidence after playing well against the nation’s best. The right-side hitter will lead a young group, with 11 of the team’s 16 student-athletes being underclassmen.

Redshirt senior Rhegan Mitchell returns after racking up more than 1,000 assists last season. The 2017 captain, as voted on by the team, was the first Tech setter since 2013 to compile more than 1,000 assists in a season and looks to build upon that this upcoming fall. She’ll mostly be dishing the ball to outside hitters Kaity Smith and Ester Talamazzi, who each earned ACC Freshman of the Week honors at various points last autumn.

Smith, a sophomore who made the All-ACC Freshman Team, had 309 kills and Talamazzi, also a sophomore, recorded 290 last season, both cracking the top 10 for most kills by freshman in program history.

The Hokies open the season Friday when they take on USC Upstate at the Charlotte Invitational held in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Rory Slevin is the lone senior on the 2018 Tech men's soccer team this season and will be counted on for both production and leadership.


The Virginia Tech men’s soccer team lost a lot of proven players off last season’s squad, but a group of talented, young standouts have the potential to lift the program back to the postseason

The Virginia Tech men’s soccer program lost 10 quality seniors, including standout goalkeeper Ben Lundgaard and scoring sensation Marcelo Acuna, from a team that won 25 games over the past two years, but head coach Mike Brizendine still thinks the Hokies possess enough juice to get back to the NCAA postseason.

“That group last year was special,” Brizendine admitted. “Our staff loves those guys. There wasn’t a day that didn’t go by that we didn’t look forward to training them and coaching them.

“But I look down this list and feel it could be the same thing. It could be the next generation of that group. I’m very excited about the new guys.”

The Hokies enter the 2018 season with just one senior – Rory Slevin, whom Brizendine expects Slevin to be the leader of this team. He’ll be joined by talented sophomores Kristo Strickler and Justus Kauppinen, both of whom figure to play large roles on offense this season. The two midfielders were productive as freshmen, as Strickler scored three goals with an assist last fall, while Kauppinen added two goals.

"I look down this list and feel it could be the same thing. It could be the next generation of that group. I’m very excited about the new guys.” - Virginia Tech coach Mike Brizendine when comparing this year's team to last year's

In addition, Tech’s defense figures to be significantly better in 2018 after the Hokies gave up the most goals in the ACC a year ago. Three top defenders return, led by sophomores Jon Ingason and Jakob Bluemler. Ingason started all 20 games as a freshman, while Bluemler started 14. Also, Tech gets the services of Will Mejia, a redshirt junior who missed much of last season. Mejia started all 22 games for the Hokies in 2016.

The Hokies won’t exactly be easing into this fall. They open the season with an NCAA tournament rematch against Air Force at the JMU Invitational on Friday – the first in a string of six games at neutral sites or on the road to start the campaign. Tech then returns home for its home opener Sept. 14 against defending ACC champion Wake Forest.

The Hokies appear to have some pieces, but they need to come together in the manner that the past two Tech teams did. If that happens, then Tech could be in the NCAA postseason discussion for a third straight year.

Karlie Johnson made her collegiate debut over the weekend, and the freshman scored Virginia Tech's lone goal in a 1-1 tie with No. 22 Georgetown on Sunday at Thompson Field.

Tech women's soccer team plays two to open 2018 season

Hokies notches two ties in home matches over the weekend

The Virginia Tech women’s soccer team kicked off the 2018-19 athletics season for the Virginia Tech Athletics Department with two matches at Thompson Field over the weekend. The Hokies tied both San Diego and Georgetown and enter this week’s action at 0-0-2. Against No. 22 Georgetown, freshman Karlie Johnson scored in the 38th minute to tie the match at 1, and Tech’s defense held the rest of the way. Goalkeeper Mandy McGlynn finished with four saves. Against San Diego in the season opener, the Hokies couldn’t get on the board, but McGlynn was sensational in goal, recording seven saves. Tech returns to action Friday when it takes on UNC Wilmington at Thompson Field at 6 p.m., followed by a Sunday home match against High Point that start at 5 p.m.

Photos from Virginia Tech's match against Georgetown, including ones of Allyson Brown (15), Jaylyn Thompson (3) and Emily Gray (4).

McGlynn faced a total of 25 shots in leading the Virginia Tech women’s soccer team to two ties over the weekend. She allowed just one goal, while recording 11 saves for a 0.41 goals allowed average. In the opener against San Diego, she earned her 13th career shutout, while registering seven saves – the third-most in a single match in her career and the most in the ACC this season. She led all ACC goalkeepers with 220 minutes played over the weekend, all of this while coming off the U-20 FIFA World Cup played in France (she only joined the team for Thursday's training).

A contingent of former football players posed for a photo with Virginia Tech head coach Justin Fuente (center) following Saturday's practice in the Indoor Practice Facility.

Former football players enjoy return visit to campus

Approximately 50 former football players and their families returned to Blacksburg on Saturday as part of a former football player alumni event held in the football players’ lounge adjacent to the Jamerson Athletics Center. The former players got to watch Saturday’s practice, interact with current players and talk to the current coaching staff. Following the practice, Director of Athletics Whit Babcock and Justin Fuente, the head football coach, addressed the group, relaying their appreciation for what the players accomplished during their times in Blacksburg and for their support over the years. Before, during and after the event, the players enjoyed a catered meal from Mission BBQ in the lounge. The event drew players from all different eras, and some of those who attended included André Davis, Vince Hall, Brenden Hill, Chad Beasley, Ken Keister, Derek Smith, Steve DeMasi, Reggie Samuel, Carlton Weatherford, Brandon Holland, David Everett, Carter Wiley, Todd Meade, Jerome Preston, Paul Ripley, John FitzHugh and John Schneider.

Tech head coach Justin Fuente addressed the group of former players and their families after Saturday's practice (top). T.J. Jackson posed for a photo with Don Reardon (bottom left) after practice — the two hail from the same part of Virginia — and Vince Hall and defensive coordinator Bud Foster reminisced about old times and shared an embrace afterward.

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