No. 9 Cavaliers visit No. 17 James Madison
Women's lacrosse seeks to continue win streak versus in-state rival
The No. 17 James Madison women’s lacrosse team has a bizarre, but effective method of disrupting the opposition that makes the Duke Dog seem like an especially apt choice of mascot.
“They bark a lot,” Virginia senior goalkeeper Kim Kolarik said. “Literally — like, ‘Woof, woof, woof.’ That’s always stood out to me every year. They’re just very obnoxious — loud, barking, everything.”
But barking aside, James Madison (5-1, 0-0 CAA) is not to be underestimated. The Dukes broke into the top 20 of this week’s deBeer Women’s Media Poll on the strength of a 9-8, overtime win Saturday at No. 18 Loyola (Md.). The Dukes now own a 3-1 record in contests decided by a single goal, with their sole loss coming at No. 10 Penn State.
No. 9 Virginia (4-4, 0-2 ACC) hopes to fend off the in-state foe Wednesday when it travels to University Park in Harrisonburg, Va. Coach Julie Myers said her team’s enthusiasm will be key in securing a win.
“I think they can really get on pretty emotional rolls where their play kind of follows,” she said. “So, it’s always physical; it’s always aggressive. They start strong; they play strong; they’re going to finish it strong.”
James Madison has played its way into the nation’s top 20 in every season of coach Shelley Klaes-Bawcombe’s seven-year tenure, and this year’s squad looks capable of capturing the program’s third Colonial Athletic Association title in four years. Redshirt senior Casey Ancarrow, the reigning conference player of the year, has scored 22 goals on a hyper-efficient 34 shots through the team’s first six games. The Cavaliers’ leading scorer through eight games, sophomore attacker Casey Bocklet, has tallied 23 goals on 46 attempts.
Fortunately for Virginia, its defense is rounding into form. The Cavaliers yielded only 20 goals in three games last week — a one-goal loss at No. 3 North Carolina, followed by home wins versus William & Mary and Princeton. The tough-nosed performances recalled early-season efforts on the road against Loyola (Md.), Richmond and No. 6 Syracuse.
“We’ve really focused,” Kolarik said. “We have all the players with standout abilities and everything, we just needed to go back to the basics — get the groundballs, the draw controls, things like that — and we worked on that a lot this week. It really showed in the past two games.”
Virginia was especially proud of its collected, consistent play in Saturday’s 9-7 win against Princeton. Unlike the Dukes, Myers’ team has been on the losing end of multiple down-to-the-wire finishes. The Cavaliers’ victory against the Tigers gave them consecutive wins for the first time since the season’s opening games.
“[The team’s outlook is] really good because we have four losses, but three of them are by one point,” Kolarik said. “So, we’re right there, we’re ready and everything. But, the morale was just awesome after Princeton … It was a great game. The attack, defense — everyone really came together to do really well.”
The game against James Madison presents another opportunity for Virginia to hone its execution under pressure. The schools are separated by only 60 miles of interstate, and as hosts, the Dukes will do their best to make the guest Cavaliers uncomfortable.
“JMU’s always a big rivalry,” Kolarik said. “They’re in-state, and they’re always very loud. And we always know that that’s coming, so we. . . are really focusing on getting the team up and ready and just finding little ways to pump ourselves up and keep ourselves going for the entire game.”