No. 9 Virginia women's lacrosse opens postseason play against Notre Dame

Cavaliers take on No. 11 Fighting Irish in ACC Tournament

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After closing the regular season with the most wins in five years, the No. 5 Virginia women’s lacrosse team looks to continue that success in the postseason, starting with the ACC Tournament held in Charlottesville this week.

“[We have] a huge opportunity in front of us,” coach Julie Myers said. “I think anyone can take the ACC tourney this year. [There are] lots of great teams, and whoever’s goalie is hot and attackers are on will be the champions come Sunday.”

After boasting a regular season record of 12-3 in 2010, the Cavaliers went on to make 9-5, 10-5, 8-8, and 9-7 records in the following consecutive years. The current squad has an 11-5 overall record and a 4-3 ACC record.

“As of right now, we have the second hardest schedule in the country,” Myers said. “I feel like that’s a pretty good measure of success, but we could be better. We lost three of those games by one, so it would have been phenomenal if we had won those, but I think we took everything in stride. The kids kept working hard no matter what challenge they had in front of them.”

Despite the regular season success of the 2010 season, the Cavaliers failed to capture the ACC Tournament title that year, losing to eventual champion Maryland in the semifinal round.

In fact, the Cavaliers haven’t won a conference tournament title since they last hosted it seven years ago — Maryland has captured it for the past six years. Maryland has since left the ACC for the Big Ten, opening up doors for teams like Virginia, who captured the three titles prior to Maryland’s run.

“We’re excited to get some revenge, but [the tournament’s] really up in the air more so than any other year, so we’re really excited to play our hardest and compete and hopefully come away with an ACC title,” senior midfielder and captain Courtney Swan said.

The Cavaliers and No.11 nationally ranked Irish are the No.4 and No. 5 seeds in the tournament, respectively. Notre Dame (9-7, 3-4 ACC) is competing in its second season in the ACC. A year ago, the Fighting Irish fell to Syracuse in the quarterfinal round of the tournament. The matchup will be a rematch of a regular season game April 4 where Notre Dame held Virginia scoreless in the first half to hand the Cavaliers their first loss in six games, 14-4.

“Clearly Notre Dame, a really good team, came in and played a really great game,” Myers said. “I think our team did a good job of making it just that one game and that one day as opposed to carrying it forward, and not stressing too much over it. I think we’ve learned some things — we’ve broken some film down and we’ve been able to go through things in practice to get a little better.”

Since that loss, the Cavaliers have bounced back with wins against Louisville and Virginia Tech to close out the regular season, scoring 17 goals in both games. The Irish have gone 2-2 with a win against Syracuse, a nine-goal victory against Michigan and losses against Northwestern and Louisville, where they failed to score 10 goals in either game.

“I’m really proud of our team,” Swan said. “I think every year our team has been different. Growing up, everyone [on our team] played, so we have a lot of strong players in all areas of the field, so I think we have a lot more confidence than normal. We started off shaky but we really turned it on at the end.”

Of the 34 goals scored in the Cavaliers’ final two games, 20 were scored by the trio of Swan, senior attacker Casey Bocklet and redshirt senior attacker Liza Blue.

“We knew when these guys were first years that they were going to be really special as they got older,” Myers said of the senior class. "Their leadership, work ethic, focus, and drive have always stayed at a very high level, and we’ve been the beneficiaries of that.”

If Virginia were to win, it would advance to the semifinal round on Friday scheduled for 1 p.m. to face either No. 1 seed North Carolina or No. 8 seed Virginia Tech. The championship game is scheduled for Sunday at 1 p.m.

“It’s definitely going to be challenging no matter who we face,” Blue said. “We just need to stay prepared and focused, and I think we can go all the way if we keep working hard.”

The first draw between Notre Dame and Virginia is scheduled at the conclusion of the North Carolina-Virginia Tech game at approximately 1 p.m.

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