​TOBIN: Can women’s lacrosse make a run for ACC title?

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Julie Myers has led the Cavaliers to one of their most successful seasons in recent memory.

Paul Burke | Cavalier Daily

Virginia women’s lacrosse owned the ACC in the first decade of the 21st century. Winning a conference title in 2004 and then again in each season from 2006-08, the Cavaliers could not be stopped.

Yet after that 2008 ACC title, Virginia has never returned to the ACC Championship game — losing in either the quarterfinals or semifinals. This drought includes last season when then-No. 5 seed Virginia fell to then-No. 4 seed Duke in a heartbreaking 9-8 quarterfinals loss.

This season seems like the stars may be re-aligning for Virginia women’s lacrosse. As a battle-tested team that closed out its regular season on three consecutive victories, Virginia has earned a No. 3 seed in this year’s ACC Tournament — its highest seeding since 2010.

"[The seeding] speaks volumes about the hard work the girls have put in," Coach Julie Myers said.

Although the team has had a string of regular-season successes, the question must be asked — can Virginia women’s lacrosse return to ACC glory and reclaim a spot in the championship match?

The path will be tough going forward, but I honestly think Virginia could make it.

First up, Virginia will face Louisville in a quarterfinals matchup Thursday. On the surface, it may look like there’s not too much for the Cavaliers to worry about. After all, the Cavaliers did hold the Cardinals — who average over 11 goals per game — to only seven in an 11-7 victory when the teams played a few weeks back.

Yet things might not be so easy this time around. First, whereas the Cavaliers had home field advantage last match, this match will be played in Richmond. Although this location is still close to Charlottesville, the fan base will be more neutral than it was at Klöckner Stadium. Additionally, Virginia cannot count on Louisville senior attacker Hannah Koloski to score so little. Koloski — who only scored one goal against Virginia in the previous matchup — is currently nationally ranked No. 7 in goals scored per game with 3.56. Finally, Louisville will be looking for revenge as an underdog in this matchup — a motivation Virginia simply does not have.

That said, the match is a coin toss that could go in Virginia’s favor. The Cavaliers have a better scoring offense than the Cardinals, and a much tougher schedule — including a match against current No. 1 Maryland. And there’s a reason why Virginia is ranked as a No. 3 seed and Louisville as No. 6 — Virginia has simply been the better team in the regular season.

If Virginia does indeed beat Louisville and move on to the ACC semifinals, the team will likely face quite an opponent in the No. 2 seed Syracuse Orange. The Orange just barely rank ahead of the Cavaliers in scoring offense and defense. Also, Syracuse narrowly edged out Virginia at home when the teams faced off earlier this season, 16-15.

The ultimate factor that could be the death knell for Virginia, though, is Syracuse’s recent hot streak in past seasons’ ACC tournaments. Every season since the Orange entered the ACC in 2014, the team has made it to the ACC Championship — winning one of the three trips in 2015. No matter how talented of a team Virginia has this year, Syracuse has the experience to propel them forward to a likely clash with No. 1 seed North Carolina.

Virginia women’s lacrosse has a lot to be proud of this year. The team made a name for itself in a really tough conference and survived some tough opponents. Making it to the semifinals would be a big deal — the Cavaliers haven’t done so since 2014, and despite losing in ACC semis, they made it to the NCAA semifinals that year. However as it stands, it is unlikely Virginia will punch a ticket back to the ACC Championship match this year.

Ben Tobin is an Assistant Managing Editor for The Cavalier Daily. He can be reached at b.tobin@cavalierdaily.com or on Twitter at @TobinBen.

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