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Michigan, Towson test Cavs' streak

The Cavalier field hockey team has never lost a game to an out-of-state, non-conference team. This 31-0 streak, combined with last year's final No. 2 national rankings, is causing a buzz for tonight's home opener against seventh-ranked Michigan.

The team is ready for the challenge, after a 2-0 start to the season with wins against the University of Massachusetts and Quinnipiac. And with a 2-1 overtime win against Massachusetts and a 7-0 victory over Quinnipiac, the team already has proven that they are ready to test their Sports Illustrated for Women No. 5 pre-season ranking.

The Michigan game is also going to be a test for Cav coach Jessica Wilk, who was promoted this year from her assistant coaching position. Her efforts last year shaping Virginia's defense have made her ready to test the waters as the woman in charge.

With one of the toughest schedules in the nation and a reputation of national dominance to uphold, the team's performance will be a testament to Wilk's abilities in the coaching spot. Aside from playing Top 20 teams UMass and Michigan, the Cavaliers also will face 1998 NCAA Champions Old Dominion and 1994 NCAA Champions James Madison.

With 10 new players this year, there also is talk about whether the young team will be up for the challenge. However, the team's four key returning starters, forward Meredith Elwell, midfielder Laura Lindsay, forward Lorraine Vizzuso and goalkeeper Becky Worthington, are expected to repeat last season's outstanding performances.

However, Wilk said she feels that the team will have a challenge tonight.

"Michigan's a very tough team, they're in the Top 10," Wilk said. "We're really gonna try and step up our defense ... try and create some turnovers for ourselves."

The Wolverines have never beaten the Cavs in their three encounters; the last meeting in 1991 resulted in a 3-0 loss.

Michigan Head Coach Marcia Pankratz also said she feels her team is up to the challenge.

"Virginia's got an outstanding hockey team, who has a tradition of playing at a top competitive level," Pankratz said. "They've been to the Final Four, and they're very competitive. We expect a competitive level of play from them. They have great speed, and they have several quality national players on that squad."

After facing Michigan tonight, the Cavaliers will play Towson University Sunday. The Virginia women are undefeated against the Tigers, and in the nine games they have played, the Cavs have outscored Towson 39-3.

However, Coach Wilk said she will not underestimate the Tigers.

"I think they're gonna come in kind of fired up to play us," she said. "Their strength is their defense, especially in their backfield."

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