Women's lacrosse closes regular season against archrival Hokies
Virginia Tech visits Klöckner, teams duel for ACC Tournament's fifth seed
Wednesday evening, the No. 16 Virginia women’s lacrosse team will take the field at Klöckner Stadium for its final game of the regular season. The Cavaliers (7-8, 0-4 ACC) were unable to establish a rhythm in Charlottesville, compiling a 2-5 home record and winning only one of six games against opponents in the top 20. Virginia will now turn its attention to archrival Virginia Tech (8-5, 0-3 ACC) in a game that will decide which team will finish No. 5 in the ACC.
“We have to win,” redshirt sophomore attacker Dana Boyle said. “There’s really no other option … we have to win to make it to the postseason. So I think it’s really important … there’s a lot weighing on Wednesday’s game.”
The NCAA Tournament expanded its field from 16 to 26 teams beginning this year, so the Cavaliers will likely make the draw despite falling from No. 11 to No. 16 in the latest polls. Nonetheless, Virginia would like to finish its season in a positive direction just days before the conference tournament, which runs from April 25 to 28 in Chapel Hill, N.C. A loss to Virginia Tech would yield additional undesirable consequences: Virginia would finish winless in conference play for just the second time in program history and cement its place as the No. 6 seed in the ACC Tournament.
“A lot’s at stake … at several levels,” Virginia coach Julie Myers said. “We need to beat an ACC team; it’s obviously our last home game, and it’s our last regular season game. We need it to be able to go back to .500 and then we would play Duke in that [ACC Tournament] first round.”
If Virginia loses Wednesday, the team will play No. 18 Boston College for the right to face No. 2 North Carolina in the ACC Semifinals. That draw is arguably less daunting than the one it would earn as the five-seed, which includes a matchup with undefeated No. 1 Maryland.
The Cavaliers, however, would prefer to win against the Hokies, and last year’s game only adds to their motivation. In the midst of the 2012 season, Virginia Tech dealt then-No. 7 Virginia a 10-9 overtime loss in Blacksburg, the Cavaliers’ first defeat in 18 games against Virginia Tech dating back to 1997.
“I think coming off a loss from them last year, we’re preparing ourselves for a win, obviously,” Boyle said. “But I think it takes a lot of preparation off the field … and on the field. We’ve been preparing since our last game for them, watching film as well as working really hard in practice.”
Coach Megan Burker guides an improving Virginia Tech program which reached double-digit wins in consecutive seasons for the first time in 2011 and 2012. This year’s team is closing out the season strong, having won five of its past six games — though the Hokies’ competition in that stretch included only one ranked team. The lone ranked opponent, North Carolina, downed Virginia Tech, 18-11, March 30 in Blacksburg.
The Hokies rank second in the ACC in assists per game, and their balanced attack prevents opposing defenses from focusing on any one player. Sophomore attacker Megan Will leads the team with 38 goals and 48 points, but senior midfielder Brooke Martin has netted 31 goals of her own on an efficient .517 shooting percentage.
Sophomore attacker Meg Bartley, whose 64 draw controls are the second-most by a Virginia Tech player in one season, paces the ACC in draw controls per game with 4.92. Senior Libby Rosebro also presents a scoring threat from the midfield, contributing 19 goals and 12 assists in 2013.
“Virginia Tech’s … played a lot of really good teams really tight,” Myers said. “They’ve got a couple of great attackers — probably two or three that really look to try to take over a game — and they do most of their ball-handling and most of their scoring. So, our defense is going to have to be sharp.”
Individual players, team rankings and statistics aside, Wednesday’s game may come down to effort and grit. Virginia has fallen short time and again in close games this season, and the team has no intention of continuing that pattern.
“As far as mindset, I think we’re really determined … to win, just because we have to and there’s no really other option,” Boyle said. “So, I think preparing is one way to feel good about the game on Wednesday. We’re ready.”