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Cavs get tough for NCAA third round

The relay drill was going well for the Virginia women's soccer team at last week's practice -- until common courtesy intervened.

As third-year forward Kyla Robinson made the tag at the end of her relay leg and began to slow up from her sprint, teammate Angela Hucles was right on her heels. Not wanting to run into her fellow forward, Hucles was forced to pull up before she reached the finish line.

The voice of Cavalier Coach April Heinrichs came booming from across the field: "Nice girls finish last, Ange!" Heinrichs said she didn't want her star player to make a habit of flattening her teammates in practice, but she said she knew the Cavs' NCAA Tournament potential would depend in large part on their willingness to show no mercy towards the opposition.

Heinrichs started to preach that philosophy two weeks ago, as the No. 16 Cavaliers (13-8-0) limped into the NCAA Tournament on the heels of a demoralizing loss to Clemson in the first round of the ACC Tourney.

The new steel-belted Cavs look good so far. They soundly defeated James Madison in the second round of the tournament -- Virginia's opening game -- and will host unranked Hartford (17-4-2) tomorrow at 2 p.m. in the round of 16 teams.

The Cavaliers have shown an ability to play rough when the situation and opponent call for it, but the toughness they're looking for now is offensive aggression.

"We're not going to sit back and be nice and wait for an opportunity," Heinrichs said. "We're going to try to create them in the attacking half of our game."

The Cavs should be fairly familiar with the Hartford defense. The two teams met Sept. 26 in Charlottesville, with Virginia taking a 2-1 decision. But that win, especially considering its early season timing, may not mean anything tomorrow.

"We've grown a lot as a team since then, so Hartford probably has too," Hucles said. "That's why we can't think we're going to win just because we beat them before."

The Hawks proved last weekend they can pose a threat to just about anyone, advancing to the third round by stunning the defending champion Florida Gators, joining Virginia as the only teams to do so this season.

Hawk sophomore forward Danielle Korbmacher, who banged home the only goal in the 1-0 win over the Gators, is one of nine foreign-born players on the Hartford roster. That influx of overseas talent shapes the way the Hawks play.

"They're very smart tactically," Heinrichs said. "They're very sophisticated with the ball at their feet. We like the way we match up against them. I like the chances of playing on a big field, because I think we're more athletic than they are."

As much as they respect the Hawks, the Cavaliers would much rather face them than the No. 2 Gators. A Virginia/Florida contest would have taken place in Gainesville.

"To go down to Florida and play on that really small field with their fans -- who're about as boisterous as you've ever heard -- and to beat them is a tremendous feat," Heinrichs said. "We have respect for Hartford and what they can do."

The Cavs respect their opponents, but don't want to be too gracious as hosts. After all, if Heinrichs has taught them anything in these past two weeks, it's that nice girls finish last.


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