Women's Lacrosse hosts Old Dominion
No. 16 Virginia looks to assert itself against in-state foe
A 7-0 second-half run against James Madison last Wednesday seemed as if it could have been the turning point in the Virginia women’s lacrosse team’s rollercoaster season. The Cavaliers had trailed at the half, and the run gave them an essential win to keep aspirations of postseason play alive.
Unfortunately for Virginia, a setback Saturday against No. 8 Duke dropped the team back to two games below .500 — and every game is becoming more and more critical. On Wednesday night, the No. 16 Cavaliers (4-6, 0-3 ACC) will have another chance to get back on track when they face Old Dominion (3-6) at home. Despite the Monarchs’ paltry three wins against inferior competition, coach Julie Myers said she knows this game cannot be overlooked.
“They’re pretty desperate, and it’s an in-state rivalry,” Myers said. “I think we have the upper hand for sure. It’s good to be at home, but they’re going to come hungry and try to force their will on us. It’s going to be a matter of how tough are we and how early can we set the tone and keep going.”
The circumstances of the Duke game made that loss even more difficult to bear. The contest went back and forth through the first 50 minutes, and a Virginia goal with 10:02 remaining gave the Cavaliers an 11-10 lead. Duke, however, rattled off six consecutive goals to come away with a 16-11 victory.
The Cavaliers were exposed in their clearing game, as they only converted 12 of their 20 attempts. They were outshot, 31-26, and committed 10 more fouls than the Blue Devils.
In an attempt to resolve their issues, Virginia’s coaches instructed their players to watch game film during the weekend and identify their own mistakes. When the team met to watch film Monday before practice, everyone had a better understanding of what needed to change, resulting in one of the better practices of the season.
“The Duke game exposed it, but nothing really happened for the first time in the Duke game,” Myers said. “Ten games in, we’re able to re-evaluate, re-assess, come together. … The girls did a great job of giving us good thoughts and feedback and just working really hard on the field.”
Virginia’s chance to turn the season around will come against a very familiar opponent. Virginia and Old Dominion play each other annually, with the Cavaliers holding a 36-1 all-time advantage. Last season’s meeting resulted in a 16-12 Virginia victory. Four different Cavaliers scored hat-tricks, and the Cavaliers dominated the draw controls, winning 21 of 30. Virginia will need to duplicate last season’s efforts to triumph against the Monarchs.
“They’re a scrappy team,” senior defender Lauren Goerz said. “They probably scouted us a lot. They’re a Virginia competitor. This is a big game for them. This has been a season of a lot of ups and downs, so you’re always looking to upset someone who’s ahead of you. For us it’s going to be absolutely essential to show that we’re a good team.”
The Monarchs have experienced their share of struggles this season. Old Dominion — an independent still a year away from joining the Atlantic Sun Conference — began the season with four losses in its first five games. Though the Monarchs have slightly rebounded, winning two of their last four games, the team has yet to defeat an opponent of Virginia’s caliber. Old Dominion’s three wins came against Stetson, Liberty and St. Joseph’s.
“They’re struggling a little bit,” Myers said. “Their wins have come against not-huge opponents, and their losses have come against good ones.”
Wednesday’s game is critical, as the Cavaliers will likely need to win four of their next six regular season games to be eligible for the NCAA tournament. While three of the next four games will be played at home, the team is not relying on scheduling favors to bring wins.
“Wherever we play, it’s just a matter of what are we willing to do and how hard are we willing to work,” Myers said. “It doesn’t matter turf or grass, home or away, we need to get back to the basics and keeping it simple and doing it well.”
In its final stretch of games, Virginia is committed to playing its own style of lacrosse and imposing its will on the opponent. In Monday’s practice, the Cavaliers did not focus on preparing a game plan for Wednesday, but rather worked on establishing their identity. Both players and coaches are hoping that this recommitment to fundamentals will pay dividends in the coming weeks.
“I think that’s going to be essential to our success in the future, … being able to play as hard as you possibly can against every single competitor that you face,” Goerz said. “We can’t just go out to win the game, we need to go out to dominate and show people this is Virginia lacrosse. We’re good.”
Opening draw is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Klöckner Stadium, though the game location may be moved to Turf Field because of the snow.