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Cav athletics finishes eighth in Sears Cup

Virginia's intercollegiate athletic program continued its steady climb to the upper tier of national Division I schools, claiming an eighth-place finish in the prestigious Sears Directors' Cup rankings this year.

"It's important for any major athletic department to feel that they should be competitive in the Sears Cup," Cavalier swimming coach Mark Bernardino said. "We've seen a steady climb with respect to U.Va.'s ranking in the last few years."

The Sears Cup competition honors the country's best all-around athletic institution. The points system awards teams for individual sports that appear in NCAA Tournament championships. A team receives points based on finishing position and the number of schools in the tournament field.

No athletic program can score in more than 20 sports; 10 representatives may come from men's teams and 10 may come from women's teams.

Any individual squad that reaches the national quarterfinals or finishes with a ranking in the top eight receives significantly higher scoring totals.

The Cavaliers' eighth-place ranking (490 points) is the school's highest in the Cup's six-year existence. In 1994 and 1995 (tie), Virginia came home 19th. The Cavs finished 21st in 1996 and 22nd in 1997.

The last two years have seen large jumps in the standings for Virginia. In 1998, the Cavaliers moved up to 13th and eighth place this year.

"A jump from 13th to eighth is a sizeable jump in a year's time," Virginia men's lacrosse coach Dom Starsia said.

Starsia's squad, along with the women's lacrosse team, helped greatly with that move into the top 10. Men's lacrosse captured the National Championship, while women's coach Julie Myers' club claimed the runner up slot. Any team that wins the national title garners 100 points for its school.

"Lacrosse at Virginia has been good for a long time," Starsia said. "We are pleased to contribute whatever we could. There is a certain reliability that both lacrosse teams here will be good each year."

The lax squads were two of 16 Virginia individuals or teams to play in postseason action this year. Other spring sports that also participated in NCAA Tournaments were women's rowing, men's tennis and men's and women's outdoor track and field. The women's crew team tied for the national title, but finished second in a tiebreaker.

In the fall, the football team competed in its ninth bowl game in 12 years with a Chik-Fil-A Peach Bowl appearance.

Men's and women's cross country, field hockey, volleyball and men's and women's soccer all advanced to tournament play in the fall as well.

It was the volleyball team's first time in the NCAA Tournament. Field hockey advanced to the Final Four.

The winter sports that made postseason competition were women's basketball, men's and women's swimming and wrestling. The women's swimming team finished with a 10th-place ranking and the men came home 14th.

"I feel very good about our teams' contributions," Bernardino said. "With two teams in the top 15, I feel good to know that the swimming athletes made a good contribution."

Virginia's strong showing ranked it second in the ACC. Duke tied with Michigan for sixth with 510 points. In all, six Conference schools finished in the top 40. North Carolina tied for 17th, Maryland was 24th, Clemson came home tied for 28th, and Florida State claimed a 39th-place tie. The Sears Directors' Cup competition ranks every division with 310 Division I schools eligible to win.