HARRISONBURG-The season-long quest for another shot at the NCAA Championship ended in the quarterfinals for the No. 6 Virginia women's lacrosse team in a 12-5 defeat at James Madison May 13.
The No. 3 Dukes (13-4) rode junior goalkeeper Jennifer Corradini's brilliant performance in net and senior midfielder Jess Marion's hat trick to their first-ever Final Four appearance.
"This was one of the better games I've even seen [Corradini] play," Cav coach Julie Myers said. "When the score was getting close and we went down and had a great look at the cage, she came up with the save."
Corradini finished the game with 12 saves, sparking a Madison defense that allowed only two goals in the second half.
"When [Corradini] makes a save, it just really gets us going," Dukes senior defender Alivian Coates said. "I think overall we played very good team defense. We forced some bad shots and she came up with some awesome saves."
Myers said that she regretted not making earlier adjustments to Corradini's strong play.
"We did have some nice looks at the goal and we just didn't change where we were shooting often enough to put some in," Myers said.
Madison was also helped by injuries to some key Cavaliers. A lingering virus forced midfielder Amy Fromal, Virginia's leading goal-scorer, into a more defensive role while Jamie Haas, the Cavs' leading point-scorer, played with a brace on her left knee the entire game. Senior defender Ashley Widger and sophomore attacker Gina Sambus also played through pain.
"We've had some major injuries to some key players within the last couple of weeks that caught up to us," Myers said. "Against a team with a Jess Marion on it, it makes it harder when Amy has been real sick, when Jamie has torn knee stuff, when Ash's legs don't hold up, when Gina's ankle is busted up."
Virginia (13-6) jumped out to an early 2-1 lead when senior midfielder Jill Hansen scored her first of two goals off a Haas feed with just eight minutes gone in the first half. But Madison countered with five unanswered goals and never looked back.
Up 7-3 at halftime, JMU remained cautiously optimistic, haunted by the memory of a second-half collapse in the NCAA quarterfinals last year against Duke. This time, Madison burst out of the gate after the break, as Marion whipped a high shot into the Virginia net 24 seconds into the second half, kicking off a 5-2 run that closed out the JMU win.
The Cavaliers left Harrisonburg frustrated by their season-long struggles against the top competition in the nation. Ranked No. 2 in the preseason with eyes set on the national championship, the Cavs finished with a disappointing 1-6 record against top-ten teams. Myers, however, chose to reflect on the successes of her senior-laden team.
"When you're shooting to be the winner in the end, you don't really have a margin for error, so I think there's a little bit of shock and a tremendous amount of disappointment," Myers said. "But this team is the closest I've ever seen a team be. I think that's what kept them together in the middle of the season [after losing four straight to top-ten opponents]. It's what's gotten us to this point. It's going to keep them knowing that the sun is going to come up again, they're still going to be best friends, and they're going to have great memories. They've played some great lacrosse throughout the course of the year"