Women's lacrosse squad enters enemy territory
Cavs hit the road to play Virginia Tech in ACC regular season finale
Electrified by a recent five-game winning streak, the Virginia women's lacrosse team will face Virginia Tech tomorrow afternoon in Blacksburg, Va. The matchup offers the Cavaliers (9-4, 2-2 ACC) the opportunity to sweep all five of its in-state opponents for the first time since 2008.
"Virginia Tech has been getting better and better each year, so they're definitely going to be coming after us, especially because it's an in-state rivalry," junior defender Megan Dunleavy said.
With the exception of last week's tense matchup against Old Dominion which saw the Cavaliers eke out a 14-13 victory, the Cavaliers have dominated their rivals in the last month, defeating Richmond 12-9, William & Mary 10-3 and James Madison 13-9.
The Cavaliers, however, still need to overcome Virginia Tech, a team which is eager to seize its first conference victory as the ACC Tournament rapidly approaches.
"They're pretty desperate for an ACC win, and we're pretty desperate to close out the season with three ACC wins," coach Julie Myers said.
Virginia Tech comes off a crippling 15-4 blowout against the Tar Heels last Sunday, but the Cavaliers are not taking their rival lightly. The Hokies (7-5, 0-3 ACC) pushed the Cavaliers to the brink last year in Charlottesville before falling 12-10.
"[The Hokies] are feisty and aggressive," Myers said. "They're young, they're talented, and they're going to come hungry."
The Cavaliers will look to shutdown a Hokie attack which is coming off its worst performance of the year. Defensively, Virginia's strategy has been to rely on draw controls and a corps of young defenders who have played well for most of the season. In the last 1:12 of Virginia's latest in-state matchup against Old Dominion, junior defender Lelan Bailey made a crucial draw control to clinch the game.
"Lelan Bailey coming from Florida has been a huge help," Dunleavy said of her transfer teammate. "She's really scrappy, along with our two first-years, Daniela Eppler and Kelsey Gahan. They've been huge stepping up, especially in transition."
In Monday's game against Harvard, the Virginia defense allowed the Crimson attack to put the ball past junior goalkeeper Kim Kolarik only once during the entire first half.
"I think our defense is really more athletic this year than it ever has been," Dunleavy said.
On the other side of the field, the Cavaliers have hit their stride as well. Monday night, senior attacker Josie Owen and freshman attacker Sloan Warren fueled an efficient Cavalier offense.
Owen tied her career high with six goals and Warren exploded to notch a career-best four assists. Owen and Warren have combined with redshirt senior attacker Ainsley Baker to lead the Cavaliers in scoring this season. All three have scored at least 20 goals this season, with Owen tallying a team-high 28.
After the Virginia Tech showdown, the Cavaliers will go up against Johns Hopkins in Baltimore Wednesday. The ACC Tournament will follow April 20-23 before the team closes out its regular season against last year's NCAA champion, Northwestern.
"We have lots of big games ahead of us, lots of big challenges," Myers said. "Our season never really gets easier at any step of the way."
With the ACC regular season wrapping up, Virginia will look to keep its momentum rolling into tonight's game and into the ACC Tournament.
"We really need to beat [Virginia Tech]," Dunleavy said. "We really need to finish strong. And both of my siblings went there, so it would be nice to beat them for that reason, too"