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Field hockey proves to be diamond in the rough for Cav fans

This semester of Virginia sports thus far has been just plain rough on Cav fans.

The two usual focuses of success, the men's soccer and football teams, have had rollercoaster seasons. On the gridiron, Virginia Coach George Welsh's troops are struggling and, of all things, they lost to Duke. Thrilling wins against BYU and UNC have been negated by heartbreakers to the Devils and Clemson.

The men's soccer team's youth and inexperience have plagued the Cavaliers (7-4-1, 1-2-1 ACC) all season. Their inconsistent play dropped them out of the Soccer America poll for the first time in 177 weeks.

But if Virginia fans turn their attention away from the attractions of the center ring for a moment, they will find a diamond in the rough.

At University Hall Turf Field, the field hockey team is quietly piecing together another successful season. Thus far the Cavaliers have posted a 10-3 overall record. The losses could just as easily have been wins with the three defeats coming by a combined total of three goals.

The Cavs fell to Old Dominion 3-2 in overtime after storming back in the second half. Maryland tiptoed by the Cavs 3-2 in College Park. Virginia also lost a narrow 1-0 decision on the road to North Carolina. But the Cavaliers will try to avenge that defeat at home this Sunday at 1 p.m.

But, the solid record is not what's so impressive. This year's team does not have an endless cast of veterans -- there are only three fourth years and three third years on the squad. The Cavs don't have a long-time head coach either. In fact, it's quite the contrary.

Coach Jessica Wilk is in her first year at the helm after serving as an assistant for ex-Cav coach Missi Sanders. But the changing of the guard has not been noticeable. The Cavaliers have yet to miss a beat.

As if adjusting to a new coach weren't enough, Virginia has had to battle youth and inexperience as well. Several stars from a year ago are gone: Michelle Vizzuso, Meredith Thorpe and Lori Mastropietro exhausted their eligibility. Each of the three was not only recognizable at Virginia, but proved to be national standouts as well.

Despite the loss of the core of the Cavs, the field hockey team has continued to excel. Much of that can be attributed to the continued success in recruiting. A number of quality recruits have committed to the Cavaliers over the past few years, leaving Wilk with a solid group of players.

Among those are two sizzling second years, Jessica Coleman and Carrie Goodloe. Coleman has accumulated 36 points, which not only leads the team, but ranks her third all-time for scoring as a sophomore. Meanwhile Goodloe has dished out 12 assists on the year. This places her third on the all-time list as a second-year.

In addition to the surging youth, Virginia's few veterans bring experience and leadership. Laura Lindsay has recorded eight assists to move her into third all-time at the University with 37. Meanwhile, fourth-year Meredith Elwell continues to provide grit and determination with production.

As the Cavaliers continue to overcome the changes facing them this season, one thing has become clear for Virginia fans: Even when things are rough, if you look closely enough, the shimmer of a diamond waits somewhere nearby.