Propelled​ ​by​ ​supercharged​ ​offense,​ ​Cavaliers​ ​look​ ​to​ ​10th​ ​straight ​win​

No. 3 Virginia faces tough road test against No. 13 Wake Forest

sp-FHTaraVittese -CBengson

Senior midfielder Tara Vittese currently leads the nation in goals per game.

Chelesa Bengson | Cavalier Daily

In​ ​the​ ​sport​ ​of​ ​field​ ​hockey,​ ​games​ ​are​ ​often​ ​decided​ ​by​ ​a​ ​single​ goal.​ ​Someone​ ​must have​ ​neglected​ ​to​ ​tell​ ​this​ ​to​ ​the​ ​No.​ ​3​ ​Cavaliers​ ​(9-1, 2-0 ACC)​ ​as​ ​they​ ​continue​ ​to​ ​blow​ ​out​ ​their opponents​ this ​season. 

This​ ​success​ ​has been​ ​spearheaded​ ​through​ ​the​ ​efforts​ ​of​ ​an​ ​incredibly​ ​aggressive​ ​and​ ​high-speed offense.​ ​The​ ​Cavaliers​ ​lead​ ​the​ ​nation​ ​with​ ​an​ ​astonishing​ ​six​ ​goals​ ​scored​ ​per​ ​game,​ ​a​ ​full​ ​goal and​ ​a​ ​half​ ​higher​ ​than​ ​the​ ​next​ ​leading​ ​offense.      

A​ ​large​ ​part​ ​of​ ​this​ ​offensive aggression​ ​stems​ ​from​ ​Virginia​ ​senior​ ​midfielder​ ​Tara​ ​Vittese​ ​and freshman​ ​midfielder​ ​Pien​ ​Dicke.​ ​Vittese​ ​leads​ ​the​ ​nation​ ​in​ ​goals​ ​per game and Dicke holds the third spot,​ ​​helping​ ​the​ ​Cavaliers​ ​reach​ ​a​ ​60-12 ​score​ ​differential​ ​across​ ​all​ ​opponents played.​ ​

Vittese​ ​is​ ​also​ ​a​ ​two-time​ ​recipient​ ​of​ ​the​ ​​NFHCA​ ​National​ ​Player​ ​of​ ​the​ ​Year​ ​Award, which​ ​is​ ​given​ ​to​ ​the​ ​single​ ​best​ ​field​ ​hockey​ ​player​ ​in​ ​the​ ​nation.​ ​Dicke’s​ ​first​ ​year​ ​at​ ​Virginia has​ also ​brought​ ​astonishing​ ​success​ ​so​ ​far​ ​with​ ​15​ ​goals. 

Under​ ​Vittese’s​ ​leadership,​ ​the​ ​Cavaliers’​ ​offense​ ​is​ ​defined​ ​by​ ​their​ ​creativity​ ​and​ ​tempo.​ ​Their speed​ ​has​ ​led​ ​to​ ​several​ ​high​ ​profile​ ​victories​ ​so​ ​far​ ​this​ ​season,​ ​most​ ​notably​ ​over​ ​the​ ​then​-​No. 1​ ​Duke​ ​Blue​ ​Devils​ ​(7-1).​ ​In​ ​that​ ​4-1​ ​win,​ ​featuring​ ​two​ ​goals​ ​by​ ​Vittese,​ ​the​ ​Cavaliers’​ ​excellent passing​ ​and​ ​dangerous​ ​shooting​ ​ability​ ​allowed​ ​them​ ​to​ ​dominate​ ​first​ ​possession​ ​and​ ​then​ ​the game.    

Monday’s​ ​6-0​ ​rout​ ​over​ ​the​ ​Pacific​ ​University​ ​Powercats​ ​(4-6, 0-2 America East)​ ​was​ ​an​ ​excellent​ ​showcase​ ​for Virginia's​ ​offensive​ ​talents.​ ​Dicke​ ​scored​ ​her​ ​fourth​ ​hat​ ​trick​ ​of​ ​the​ ​season,​ ​and​ ​the​ ​tempo showed​ ​by​ ​the​ ​team​ ​allowed​ ​them​ ​to​ ​dominate​ ​possession​ ​of​ ​the​ ​ball​ ​and​ ​put​ ​themselves​ ​in positions​ ​that​ ​could​ ​be​ ​easily​ ​capitalized ​on.​ ​The​ ​Cavaliers​ ​out-shot​ ​the​ ​Powercats,​ ​24-9,​ ​and scored​ ​four​ ​of​ ​their​ ​goals​ ​off​ ​of​ ​set-piece​ ​penalty​ ​corner​ ​opportunities. 

“I​ ​think​ ​that​ ​we​ ​just​ ​really​ ​worked​ ​the​ ​inside-outside​ ​passes​ ​like​ ​we’ve​ ​been​ ​practicing​ ​all​ ​day, we​ ​used​ ​our​ ​speed,​ ​that's​ ​a​ ​huge​ ​thing​ ​for​ ​our​ ​team,”​ ​Virginia sophomore​ ​midfielder​ ​Colleen​ ​Norair​ ​said.​ ​“Our​ ​speed​ ​both​ ​on​ ​the​ ​ball​ ​and​ ​off​ ​the​ ​ball​ ​meant​ ​that​ ​we​ ​were​ ​all​ ​in​ ​the​ ​right place​ ​at​ ​the​ ​right​ ​time.”   

Virginia’s​ ​suffocating​ ​defense​ ​has​ ​also​ ​played​ ​a​ ​large​ ​part​ ​of​ ​the​ ​Cavaliers’​ ​success​ ​this​ ​season, most​ ​notably​ ​in​ ​a​ ​game​ ​against​ ​the​ ​then​-​No.​ ​8​ ​Boston​ ​College​ ​Eagles, when Virginia junior​ ​goalkeeper​ ​Carrera​ ​Lucas​ ​made​ ​five​ ​saves​. This,​ ​combined​ ​with​ ​exceptional​ ​defensive​ ​performances​ ​by freshman​ ​back​ ​Rachel​ ​Robinson​ ​and​ ​sophomore​ ​back​ ​Dominique​ ​van​ ​Slooten,​ ​allowed​ the Cavaliers to​ ​keep​ ​a​ ​talented​ ​Eagles​ ​offense​ ​from​ ​scoring​ ​a​ ​single​ ​goal. 

Games​ ​like​ ​the​ ​Boston​ ​College​ ​game​ ​are​ ​not​ ​the​ ​exception​ ​to​ ​this​ ​year’s​ ​field​ ​hockey​ ​team​ ​but the​ ​rule. The​ ​Cavaliers​ ​have​ ​had​ ​an​ ​increasingly​ ​impermeable​ ​defense,​ ​with​ ​four​ ​shutouts​ ​on​ ​the season,​ ​including​ ​the​ ​past​ ​three​ ​games.​ ​Several​ ​other​ ​teams​ ​have​ ​only​ ​managed​ ​a​ ​single​ ​point against​ ​Virginia.​ ​The​ ​key​ ​to​ ​the​ ​Cavaliers’​ ​defense​ ​is​ ​its​ ​simplicity​ ​and​ ​adaptability,​ ​which​ ​allows players​ ​more​ ​freedom​ ​to​ ​respond​ ​to​ ​offensive​ ​plays​ ​as​ ​they​ ​occur.

“We’re​ ​proud​ ​of​ ​our​ ​defense,”​ head ​coach​ Michele ​Madison​ ​said.​ ​“On​ ​our​ ​defense,​ ​everyone​ ​has​ ​to​ ​get​ ​a​ ​job, and​ ​then​ ​do​ ​that​ ​job​ ​well.”    

The​ ​Cavaliers​ ​have​ ​a​ ​tough​ ​conference​ ​matchup​ ​Friday​ ​on​ ​the​ ​road​ ​against​ ​No.​ ​13​ ​Wake Forest​ ​(5-4, 2-1 ACC).​ ​The​ ​Demon​ ​Deacons​ ​have​ ​won​ ​four​ ​of​ ​their​ ​last​ ​five​ ​games​ ​and​ ​have​ ​an​ ​offensive tempo​ ​similar​ ​to​ the Cavaliers’.​ ​The​ ​Demon Deacons’​ ​scoring​ ​ability​ ​is​ ​led​ ​by​ ​sophomore​ ​forward​ ​Nicola Pluta,​ ​last​ ​year’s​ ​ACC​ ​Freshman​ ​of​ ​the​ ​Year.​ ​

Wake​ ​Forest​ ​struggled​ ​offensively​ ​during​ ​its​ ​first few​ ​games​ ​while​ ​Pluta​ ​was​ ​abroad​ ​with​ ​the​ ​German​ ​U-21​ ​national​ ​team,​ ​but​ ​her​ ​return​ ​brought new​ ​offensive​ ​firepower​ ​to​ ​the​ ​Demon Deacons’​ ​lineup.​ ​Junior​ ​forward​ ​Jule​ ​Grashoff​ ​has​ ​also contributed​ ​heavily​ ​to​ ​Wake​ ​Forest’s​ ​offense​ ​this​ ​year,​ ​scoring​ ​in​ ​each​ ​of​ ​the​ ​previous​ ​five games.     

The​ Demon ​Deacons​ ​have​ ​a​ ​long​ ​history​ ​with​ ​the​ ​Cavaliers,​ ​with​ the Cavaliers ​leading​ ​23-18​ ​in​ ​matchups​ ​so far.​ ​Their​ ​last​ ​meeting​ ​was​ ​Nov.​ ​4 ​of​ ​last​ ​year when ​the​ ​Cavaliers​ ​knocked​ ​Wake​ ​Forest out​ ​of​ ​the​ ​ACC​ ​tournament.​ 

​The​ ​Cavaliers​ ​have​ ​played​ ​nine​ ​of​ ​their​ ​10​ ​games​ ​at​ ​home so far this season,​ ​and Friday’s​ ​game​ ​should​ ​serve​ ​as​ ​a​ ​litmus​ ​test​ ​for​ ​the​ ​ability​ ​of​ ​Virginia’s​ ​offensive​ ​to​ ​remain dangerous​ ​on​ ​the​ ​road​ ​against​ ​ranked​ ​opponents.     

“Wake​ ​Forest​ ​plays​ ​with​ ​a​ ​lot​ ​of​ ​tempo,”​ ​Madison said.​ ​“So​ ​it’s​ ​really​ ​going​ ​to​ ​be​ ​the​ ​team that​ ​out-tempos​ ​the​ ​other​ ​one​ ​and​ ​does​ ​it​ ​for​ ​the​ ​longest​ ​amount​ ​of​ ​time.    

The​ ​game​ ​is​ ​scheduled​ ​for​ ​6​ ​p.m.​ ​Friday​ ​at​ ​Kentner​ ​Stadium​ ​in​ ​Winston​-​Salem,​ N.C. ​and​ ​will​ ​be broadcasted​ ​on​ ​the​ ​ACC​ ​Network​ ​Extra. 

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