No. 7 Cavaliers begin ACC Tournament play

Virginia faces Boston College in first round of conference tournament

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Junior midfielder Tara Vittese was named the ACC Offensive Player of the Year leading up to the Cavaliers' first round NCAA Tournament matchup.

Darya Tahan | Cavalier Daily

With the regular season now completed, the Virginia field hockey team will begin its quest for the ACC Championship with a quarterfinal matchup against Boston College.

The Cavaliers (12-7-0, 3-3 ACC), who hosted the 2015 tournament, travel to Winston-Salem, N.C. looking to outdo last year’s semifinal overtime loss against Syracuse.

Virginia enters the tournament with its last three games being decided by just one goal. These tight matches for the Cavaliers include a 3-2 win against No. 23 James Madison, a 2-1 loss to No. 3 Maryland and a 3-2 overtime loss against No. 8 Louisville.

The difficult competition has been something that the Cavaliers have faced all season long, and they hope it will prepare them for the post-season.

“We’ve been playing tough opponents every day to try to get us as ready as we can be,” coach Michele Madison said.

In the Cavaliers’ most recent matchup against the Dukes (12-6-0, 4-2-0 CAA), senior strikers Caleigh Foust and Riley Tata each had a goal, as did freshman striker Erin Shanahan.

Tata, a key to Virginia’s offensive success, has scored in four consecutive games, recording a total of 11 goals on the season.

Junior midfielder Tara Vittese has also notched 11 goals this season in addition to her eight assists. Vitesse, the 2015 National Player of the Year, was named the ACC Offensive Player of the Year, and was additionally named to the All-ACC First Team this season, which marks her third time earning this honor.

Joining Vittese on the All-ACC First Team is senior midfielder Lucy Hyams, who has seven goals and seven assists this season. Hyams has been a dependable scorer for the Cavaliers when they needed her most, scoring the game-winning over-time goals against Boston College (10-8-0, 3-3 ACC) and Syracuse (14-2-0, 4-2 ACC).

Vittese and Hyams know that more responsibility comes with their recent accolades.

“I think it’s really important for us to lead the team [Thursday],” Vittese said. “Hopefully if we win, we’ll be on to the next game on Friday. So I think it’s important for us to just be vocal leaders and lead by example on the field.”

No. 10 Boston College comes into the match after suffering a 4-3 overtime loss against Connecticut — a team that beat the Cavaliers 8-0 earlier this season. The loss to the No. 4 Huskies (18-1-0, 7-0 Big East) ended a three-game winning streak for the Eagles and was the first time the Eagles lost a game when scoring three or more goals.

Sunday’s matchup was Senior Day for Boston College, and its seniors certainly delivered a memorable performance in their last home game. Forwards Brittany Sheenan and Eryn McCoy each scored a goal against Connecticut, and midfielder Emily McCoy also put one in the back of the net for the Eagles.

Sheenan and the McCoy twins have been an integral part of Boston College’s offense, and will be crucial for the Eagles as they look to take on the Cavaliers. Emily McCoy, who has recorded 13 points this season, was just named to the All-ACC Second Team. Eryn McCoy has tallied up 18 points this season, while Sheenan boasts an impressive 10 goals and three assists for the season.

Additionally, sophomore forward Lucy Lytle has had tremendous success in her second year, leading the Eagles with 12 goals. Lytle was the lone goal-scorer for the Eagles when they fell, 2-1, to the Cavaliers in an over-time matchup earlier this season.

While the previous showdown between these two teams will be an important reference point, Virginia knows a lot has changed since it last faced Boston College.

“We’re both very different teams after a month,” Madison said. “It was a month ago we played them and they’re better and we’re better, and it’s going to be a very intense game.”

Vittese agreed with Madison.

“They obviously have very good skill and very good players,” Vittese said. “So I think it’s important for us to focus on defense and not diving in. And getting beat is something that killed us a little last time.”

In addition to the their talented offense, the Eagles also have a defensive front led by two All-ACC Second Team selections — junior goalkeeper Audra Hampsch and sophomore defender Frederique Haverhals. They will both be important players for Boston College as they face a Virginia team that has been emphasizing improving finishing techniques.

“We’ve had a lot of shots, but not really the goals to back it up,” Hyams said. “So we’ve been talking a lot about getting down, getting low, finishing the goals, getting rebounds. We’ve been working really hard the last few weeks with that, so we’re ready to put it out there tomorrow.”

The game is scheduled to start at 4 p.m. Thursday, and the winner will go on to face the winner of the Syracuse-Wake Forest matchup Friday.

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