Cavs enjoy landmark 2012 season

Despite disappointing playoff exit, Olympians Selenski, Vittese spark record-setting 2012 for field hockey


Though every player on the Virginia field hockey team would tell you ending the season short of a national championship was a grand disappointment, this year will go down among the most remarkable in Cavalier history.

Just one year after the program’s first losing season in six years, the team regrouped to post a 16-6 record and earn a spot in the NCAA quarterfinals before losing to eventual national champion Princeton.

“Only one team ends up wining it all, and no matter what, it’s disappointing for the other 15 teams in the tournament,” coach Michele Madison said. “We gave it a good run and matched up well with Princeton, who eventually won, and that’s how it goes.”

This year the Cavaliers were also forced to incorporate a pair of redshirt seniors a full year removed from the program into leading roles on the offense. Forward Paige Selenski and midfielder Michelle Vittese missed last season to compete for the U.S. National Team before returning for their final year at Virginia.

“I think the team’s adjustment with Paige and Michelle went very well,” Madison said. “That’s really not an easy thing to do. They became such a close team because everyone wanted to make it work. They fought for it every day and I’m very proud of that.”

The Cavaliers were eventually able to put together some very impressive wins. Early in the season the team knocked off then-No. 3 Old Dominion and defeated two-time defending national champion Maryland later that September. In total the Cavaliers defeated seven ranked opponents, and four of Virginia’s six losses came against teams that reached NCAA Tournament semifinals.

The season featured Virginia records and milestones aplenty. Most notably, Selenski became the all-time Cavalier scoring leader with 238 career points, and the program notched its 500th victory in a Sept. 23 win against Boston University.

In addition, Madison earned her 300th career victory, placing her 26th in Division I history; a 14-0 victory against Towson in August marked the most goals ever scored by an ACC team; and by scoring a goal in every game, the Cavaliers also avoided being shut out for the entire season.

The Cavaliers were honored with a slew of individual recognitions this season. Vittese, Selenski, junior back Elly Buckley, and sophomore goalkeeper Jenny Johnstone were all named to the 17 member All-ACC squad, making Virginia the second most represented team in the conference. Those four Cavalier players also earned places on the National Field Hockey Coaches Association South Region Team, while sophomore forward Rachel Sumfest and junior midfielder Carissa Vittese garnered second team recognition. Selenski and Michelle Vittese also merited first team All-American honors, while Buckley received second-team honors.

“Every year we seem to get more and more on All-Americans,” Madison said. “More individuals get recognized. Only successful programs have awards. I know they would all give that up for a national championship.”

The season also saw Selenski become arguably the greatest player in Virginia field hockey history. The four-time All-American was both ACC Offensive Player of the Year and NFHCA South Region Player of the Year. Her 238 points, in addition to setting the Virginia career record, rank best in ACC and eighth in NCAA history. She became the 10th player in NCAA history to score 100 career goals, trailing only Virginia great Meredith Thorpe in the ACC.

The Cavaliers bid farewell to a golden senior class, consisting of Selenski, Michelle Vittese, forward Britt Knouse, back Phoebe Willis and goalkeeper Amanda Crider. The five seniors reached back-to-back NCAA tournament semifinal matches, a feat only accomplished one other time in Virginia history.

The cumulative post-season experience from the seniors should prove to be a valuable asset to the younger members of the team going forward.

“We have players on our team with final four experience, and Paige and Michelle even have Olympic experience,” Sumfest said before the NCAA tournament. “These are games where you have to put everything on the line and you have your entire season at stake. I think it’s really important that we have leadership with that kind of experience.”

Although each of the seniors’ immediate goal will be to finish their degrees, Madison said that it was nice for them to have field hockey in their back pockets. She also noted that Michelle Vittese and Selenski were eying future international play.

“Paige and Michelle are still on the national squad, and both of their goals is Rio De Janeiro in 2016,” Madison said. “But in national play you really have to focus on two years at a time, in this case for the World Championships in Holland in 2014.”

With the recruiting process for next season nearly wrapped up, Madison said that nine athletes will be entering the program in 2013. That number will match only the current junior class, meaning the freshman and senior classes next season will make up two thirds of the squad.

“There will be a huge influx of young enthusiastic talent,” Madison said. “We’ll look to become a team as quickly as we can.”

related stories