Cavaliers visit Syracuse

Orange's recent loss, home crowd add extra difficulties for Virginia


Late last May, as the Virginia women’s lacrosse team mourned its season’s early termination in the NCAA Tournament’s first round, Syracuse was rehearsing for one final act. Following a 17-16 squeaker against No. 5 North Carolina and a seven-goal comeback against No. 1 Florida that required two overtimes, the Orange found themselves in the national championship game against Northwestern.

Though Syracuse would lose that game 8-6, their enthralling late-season run and the return of almost every major contributor from last year outsized expectations for 2013.

That the team established such a lofty self-standard, however, only compounded the frustration wrought by a 19-11 loss to No. 4 Maryland in last Sunday’s home opener. Cognizant of this, Virginia coach Julie Myers and her No. 8 Cavaliers (2-0) are expecting a challenge of the tallest order this Sunday against an angry No. 2 Syracuse (1-1) team at the Carrier Dome.

“There is really no true weakness anywhere on the field, and they’re coming off a heartbreak,” Myers said. “They played on Sunday, and then their next game is us the following Sunday, so they’ve got lots of time to think about what happened and lots of time to fix it.”

If their performance last season is any indication, the Orange are capable of amending any perceived vulnerabilities quickly and convincingly. Syracuse dropped its second and third games of 2012 — with Virginia dealing the first blow in a 9-7 victory Feb. 26 — but rebounded with 15 wins in a row, a streak which ended in the Big East title game against Loyola (Md).

The Orange’s near misses in both the NCAA Tournament and their own conference championship have doubtlessly motivated this year’s group, which welcomed 11 of its 12 leading scorers from 2012 back into the fold. And with the intimidatingly immense, 50,000-seat capacity Carrier Dome hosting the festivities, the Cavaliers expect to encounter a particularly raucous crowd Saturday.

“I think it’s going to be a good atmosphere,” sophomore attacker Casey Bocklet said.

As Virginia readies for Sunday’s tilt, the squad’s preparation will likely center on slowing Syracuse’s pair of 2012 First Team All-America attackers: senior Michelle Tumolo and junior Alyssa Murray. The duo combined for 126 goals and 74 assists in leading the Orange to a 19-4 record last season, with Tumolo earning IWLCA Attacker of the Year honors. Junior midfielder Katie Webster, a Third Team All-American in 2012, adds still greater potency to an offense that last season averaged 14.57 goals per game.

“Syracuse is a great team,” Myers said. “We’ll get some film of them. I mean, they’re incredibly fast.”

For their part, the Cavaliers have benefited from their own potent arsenal of offensive weapons in the early goings of 2013. The team shared the ball crisply in wins against No. 6 Loyola (Md) and in-state rival Richmond, with six different players recording goals in each game. In the second half of Wednesday’s 13-7 win against the Spiders, the Cavaliers scored seven goals while yielding none to turn a taut affair into a romp. Through two games, junior attacker Ashlee Warner and Bocklet lead the team with 9 and 8 points, respectively. Senior keeper Kim Kolarik has saved 15 of 31 shots on goal.

Still, with the bitter taste of their loss to Maryland not yet expunged and homefield advantage behind them, the Orange will be eager to ambush Virginia Saturday.

“They have all the time in the world to prepare for us and to clean up their act,” Myers said.

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