Cavaliers seek fourth straight win on senior night

Face No. 6 Eagles in ACC battle as end of season approaches

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Three straight wins have given the No. 16 Virginia women’s lacrosse team a much-needed jolt of confidence. While the team brought two dominant performances against Old Dominion and American, it was the win against No. 11 Notre Dame Saturday which showed true progress against a conference opponent.

Now, the Cavaliers (7-6, 1-3 ACC) are in the same situation they found themselves in just a year ago. Virginia needs to win two of the next four guaranteed games remaining to reach the nine-win threshold for NCAA tournament berth.

Last season’s team lost two of the last three regular season games after reaching a 7-6 record and needed an upset against Duke in the ACC tournament to make the NCAA tournament. This year’s squad, carrying the most confidence they have all season, is determined to make things easier — which starts with a win against No. 6 Boston College (10-3, 2-3 ACC) Thursday night.

“The magic number of wins is nine,” coach Julie Myers said. “We’re just hunting down number nine, but we have to get to eight to get to nine, so [Boston College] is a huge game for us.”

In their win against Notre Dame last weekend, the Cavaliers set the tone early, and the more highly-ranked Irish had no answer for Virginia’s fast-paced offense and smothering defense. The victory extended the Cavalier win streak to three games and put them above .500 for the first time this season.

In the contest, Virginia received hat-tricks from sophomore attacker Kelly Boyd, junior attacker Courtney Swan and senior midfielder Maddy Keeshan. Junior attacker Casey Bocklet added three assists in the dominating effort.

“I think we did a good job marking up and shutting down their big players,” senior attacker Ashlee Warner said. “We really just worked the ball well as a team. We just found the open player, and we hit our shots when we had to.”

Virginia and Boston College are relatively familiar foes. The two schools have faced 11 times, with Virginia holding a 9-2 advantage, but the Eagles came away victorious in last season’s meeting, 10-7.

That game was knotted at four almost 10 minutes into the second half before Boston College went on a five-goal run to pull away from the Cavaliers. The Eagles won the second half ground ball battle, 7-3, and also won eight of the second half’s 11 draw controls.

The Cavaliers do not plan to let this happen again, mostly by utilizing junior attacker Courtney Swan in the draw circle. Against Notre Dame, Swan won seven draw controls as Virginia ended up dominating the stat, 16-7. On the season, Swan is eighth best in the nation, winning in five draws per game.

“[Boston College] is always good on the draws,” Myers said. “Hopefully we’ll be able to play that to our advantage a little bit more where Courtney [Swan] and the draw team really have those first touches on the ball. We’re going to have to be sharp. We’re going to have to be good.”

Boston College is every bit deserving of its No. 6 ranking. The Eagles have lost just three games this season — against No. 1 North Carolina, No. 2 Maryland and No. 3 Syracuse — by a combined four goals.

For a Cavalier victory against arguably the best team they have faced in weeks, the fast-paced Virginia offense — currently averaging more than 14 goals per game — will need to continue its recent success. However, it will face a tough test against a Boston College, who surrenders an average of only eight goals on just 18 shots per game.

“BC is really deliberate when they play the game,” Myers said. “They will take their time on attack. A three to five minute possession ending in a goal is what they’re looking for. They really try to limit how many goals an opponent can score by just them not having the ball.”

Offensively, the Eagles are led by scorers junior attacker Covie Stanwick — the younger sister of former Virginia men’s All-American and Tewaaraton Trophy winning attackman Steele Stanwick — and junior midfielder Mikaela Rix. The two have 44 and 43 points, respectively.

It will be critical for the Cavaliers to force Boston College into turnovers and difficult shots to limit their possessions. Key Virginia defenders such as senior defender Lauren Goerz and junior midfielder Morgan Stephens will lead a defense that hopes to throw off the Eagles.

“We’ve got a couple of different defenses we can throw at them to try and get the ball out,” Myers said. “Hopefully force them to go a little bit where [senior goalkeeper] Liz [Colgan] can make her saves.”

As well as having significant post-season implications, the game is also senior night. Virginia will honor eight fourth-years, including captains Warner and Keeshan. The Cavaliers have not lost on senior night since 2011, and a victory would cap off a memorable run of Klöckner successes.

“Our fourth-year girls are great,” Warner said. “[Boston College] is going to be a great game for that day. They’re a really good team and that’d just be a wonderful way to end it, and we definitely need it.”

The opening draw is scheduled for Thursday at 7 p.m. at Klöckner Stadium.


Published April 9, 2014 in Sports





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