Tigers thrash Cavaliers 5-2 in season-ending playoff match
Loss follows squad's 3-2 first round win against Iowa
After defeating No. 14 Iowa 3-2 in the first round of the tournament, the No. 7 Virginia field hockey team saw a magical season come to a close with a 5-2 loss to No. 2 Princeton in the NCAA quarterfinals. The Cavaliers (16-6. 4-1 ACC) fell to the Tigers(19-1, 7-0 Ivy) at Turf Field for the second time in the last two weeks.
“It’s hard to look at the season on the most disappointing day, but everything we did up until this day is what got us here,” coach Michele Madison said. “That all tells the story of the heart and soul the team put in everyday and how they were able to turn it around after [last year’s disappointing season].”
The weekend did feature two program milestones for Virginia, as redshirt senior forward Paige Selenski scored her 100th goal of her career and Madison earned her 100th victory as Virginia’s head coach during Saturday’s win against Iowa (14-7, 5-2 Big 10). Just five minutes into the contest, Selenski rushed in toward the goal from the left side of the field and appeared to lose control of the ball in front of the net before managing to relocate it and knock in her historic score.
“When the defense isn’t set up you really have to take advantage of that,” Selenski said. “I just threw a junk ball along the face of the goal and was able to get the rebound.”
Just five minutes later, however, the Hawkeyes scored twice in a span of a little more than a minute. Both goals resulted from Iowa penalty corners, an area in which the Cavaliers struggled last weekend in the ACC tournament when No. 6 Maryland scored four of its five goals in that phase of play.
“It’s at the part of the season where everyone knows what everyone is doing on [penalty corners],” Madison said. “For tournament time you change a couple things to get some better results.”
The Cavaliers spent nearly the rest of the half playing from behind, but junior back Elly Buckley changed that with an equalizing goal just 11 seconds from the end of the period.
“That goal felt pretty good,” Buckley said. “It allowed us to go into the half even, giving us a clean slate for the next half.”
Virginia battled for a game-winning goal until 10 minutes from the end of regulation. Junior forward Elizabeth Hanks stormed down the left side of the field, claimed the ball and subsequently chipped it in front of the goal to junior forward Hadley Bell, who tapped it in to put the Cavaliers ahead for good.
“We really just focused on putting the pressure on them so that we could play our game,” Bell said. “We were tied up, so we were both trying to find that moment to go in and score.”
Virginia outshot Iowa 14-8, and sophomore goalkeeper Jenny Johnstone earned the win in the net while tallying three saves.
“Iowa was a really good team,” Madison said. “They’re well coached and they’re a great defensive team. They gave us everything we could handle and I’m really proud of how our team stayed composed and worked the game plan.”
Virginia returned to the Turf Field the following day to face Princeton, who earned its spot in the quarterfinal by defeating No. 15 Drexel 5-0. The game marked a rematch of the Cavaliers’ last regular season match, a game Princeton won 2-1 Oct. 28.
By the end of five minutes of action, the teams matched their three-goal combined total from the first meeting. Seconds into the game, the Cavaliers were awarded a penalty corner that sophomore forward Rachel Sumfest converted into a goal.
“Getting rebounds on corners and capitalizing was something we had really worked on,” Sumfest said. “If you get a goal in the first minute of play it really fires the team up and gets the momentum going for the first half.”
Princeton answered with a goal two minutes later before Buckley put Virginia back ahead 2-1 with another goal resulting from a penalty corner. The Tigers, however, scored twice more in the half to take a 3-2 advantage into the break.
“We knew we were dealing with two of the top teams in the country scoring-wise, so I anticipated a high scoring game,” Madison said. “I knew we were going to come out of the gate strong, and that’s what happened.”
But in the second half, a completely manageable one goal deficit for Virginia soon turned into an insurmountable three-goal deficit when Princeton senior forward Kathleen Sharkey found the net twice in the period’s first seven minutes. The Cavaliers tightened up on defense afterwards, but the offense’s failure to regain its early-game fire rendered Virginia’s efforts futile.
“Princeton is a great defensive team all around,” Selenski said. “They don’t really have any weaknesses on the field, which made it a struggle for us. We had the right game plan and started off strong, but we needed to maintain that the whole game.”
Despite their season’s disappointing conclusion, the Cavaliers totaled eight more wins than they did in their 2011 campaign and will return seven of their top nine point scorers for the 2013 season.
“Now we know what it takes during the season to get here,” Sumfest said. “We know that we have to put in the work in preseason and the regular season… I think we’re going to take this and gear up for next season.”