Virginia's struggles against top-10 teams continues

No. 9 Cavaliers fall to 1-5 against elite opponents following 13-7 loss to No. 6 Duke


The No. 9 Virginia women’s lacrosse team and No. 6 Duke entered Saturday afternoon’s showdown at Klöckner Stadium under similar circumstances. Virginia was in the thick of a three-game winning streak, while Duke had not lost in its past four contests. Though both squads found themselves ranked among the NCAA’s best teams, the Cavaliers owned a 1-4 record against fellow top-10 units and the Blue Devils were winless in just one try.

Following Duke’s (9-1, 2-1 ACC) 13-7 win against the Cavaliers (5-5, 0-3 ACC), the teams’ situations appear less analogous. The Blue Devils’ winning ways continued and they now have as many breakthroughs as setbacks against top-10 opponents. Meanwhile, the Cavaliers will need to rebound Wednesday at Old Dominion while wondering how they can better compete with the national powerhouses left on their schedule.

“I think that there were a couple of times we just broke and made a couple of mistakes and … gave Duke, who’s a really disciplined team and really well-organized team, too many opportunities,” Virginia coach Julie Myers said. “So what we take away from it is we can’t play flat and we need to make sure no matter what the score is or how much time is on the clock, we stay together.”

Virginia left the field at halftime trailing 6-5, and that thin margin held until Blue Devil sophomore midfielder Taylor Trimble scored with 21:29 remaining. Her tally marked the beginning of a three-goal run that prompted Myers to call timeout with 17:45 to play and her team trailing 9-5.

The Cavaliers responded to the four-goal deficit with defensive grit and offensive spark. Virginia senior attacker and co-captain Caroline McTiernan scored on a free-position shot with 11:41 remaining and junior attacker Ashlee Warner scored off a pass from sophomore attacker Casey Bocklet less than half a minute later.

But after a nine-minute drought against junior goalkeeper Liz Colgan and the Virginia defense, four Blue Devils combined to reel off four unanswered goals to seal the game.

Duke outshot Virginia 18-9 in the second half and finished with a decisive advantage in ground balls, 11-4. Though Virginia won the draw control battle 13-9, the teams were even in the second half. Blue Devils freshman goalkeeper Kelsey Duryea notched 12 saves in improving to 5-0 since her insertion into the starting lineup following Duke’s loss to No. 1 Maryland.

“The first half was neck-and-neck — we shot and scored; they shot and scored,” Myers said. “Second half, you know, I thought we were coming out sharp and strong. We didn’t make many adjustments at halftime. But I think…[Duke] stayed sharp, and they moved the ball better. And they ran harder offensively as well. I think we got a little bit sticky with the ball, a little bit slower offensively, and that just really tipped the scales to them.”

Eight players found the back of the net for Duke. Senior attacker Makenzie Hommel led all scorers with four goals and one assist and junior midfielder Maddy Morrissey added three goals and an assist.

Bocklet led the Virginia attack with two goals and one assist, while Warner and sophomore midfielder Morgan Stephens had a goal and an assist each. McTiernan, sophomore midfielder Courtney Swan and junior midfielder Christie Donovan — a William & Mary transfer — each added one goal. Donovan’s first goal of the season opened the scoring 41 seconds into the game.

Virginia held leads of 1-0, 2-1 and 3-2 in the first 13 minutes of the game, but Duke tied the score each time and took its first lead, 4-3, on junior midfielder Molly Quirke’s goal with 11:58 left in the first half. The Cavaliers answered when Swan took a pass from Warner and beat Duryea with 11 minutes on the clock, but the Blue Devils scored the next two goals. Bocklet claimed the final goal of the first half when she juked her defender for an open look at the cage.

The loss was Virginia’s latest to a team ranked above them in the polls. The Cavaliers defeated then-No. 6 Loyola in their season-opener, but have since lost to No. 1 Maryland, No. 3 North Carolina, No. 5 Syracuse and No. 10 Penn State. The losses against North Carolina, Syracuse and Penn State were each by one goal.

“I think this just puts it in perspective,” Warner said. “We need to not just come into this game thinking, ‘Oh, we’re just — we’re right there — because we’ve been there for the top-10 teams.’ Like, we need to go into games like, you know, we’re going to win by 10 instead of just trying to stay with them by one.”

Duke knocked Virginia out of the NCAA Tournament last year in the first round after losing to the Cavaliers in the regular season. Virginia fell to 0-3 in ACC play with their remaining in-conference matchups coming against Boston College and Virginia Tech. Senior goalkeeper Kim Kolarik missed her second game in a row because of a hand injury and is questionable for Wednesday’s game against Old Dominion.

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