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Cavaliers face Buckeyes in NCAA opener

No. 10 Virginia field hockey (13-7) will head to Winston-Salem, N.C., tomorrow to take on No. 5 Ohio State (15-4) in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. The winner will go on to face the winner of the Wake Forest-Ohio University game in Sunday's regional final.

The Cavaliers are 8-1 all-time against Ohio State. Their most recent victory came Oct. 7 when Virginia handed the Buckeyes a 2-1 defeat in Charlottesville, thanks to goals by junior Cara Unterkofler and co-captain Carrie Goodloe. The two teams have never met before in postseason play.

"I'm expecting Ohio State to be out for revenge this weekend, but I'm really confident in our abilities at this point in the season," Goodloe said. "We've worked very hard to put ourselves in a solid position to be successful in the NCAAs."

This season marks Virginia's seventh consecutive appearance in the NCAA tournament and the 14th in program history. Ohio State earned one of eight automatic bids to the tournament by winning the Big Ten tournament last weekend. It will be Ohio State's second appearance in the NCAA tournament.

Virginia enters the NCAA tournament after dropping its last decision to eventual ACC champion Maryland, a team it managed to squeak by, 3-2, on penalty strokes during the regular season. The Cavaliers had little trouble with Duke in the first round of the ACC tournament, however, topping the Blue Devils, 3-1, in part because of the solid defense of sophomore goalkeeper Emily White, who had five saves during the game. White notched eight saves against Ohio State in the Oct. 7 contest.

Virginia also has been enjoying diversity in its offensive arsenal lately. Goodloe, Unterkofler, sophomore Katie Nicholson, freshman Ashleigh Haas and team scoring leader Jessie Coleman have all contributed goals for the Cavaliers over the past five games.

Ohio State heads to Winston-Salem after outscoring its opponents 10-1 on the way to the Big Ten title. Goalkeeper Allison Blanton earned a piece of the tournament MVP honor for her nearly impenetrable defense in the cage. Midfielder Marije van Nouhuys also was honored for her one goal and two assists.

"They are very skilled and very strong," Virginia coach Jessica Wilk said of Ohio State. "They're on a roll right now, having just won the Big Ten. They're a top-notch opponent."

Virginia has had a lot of success with Ohio State over the years, however, and if the Cavaliers play to their capability, the odds are good for them to earn a spot in the regional final.

"We need to play hard and put together a solid 70-minute game," Wilk said. "You're not going to beat a team like Ohio State if you're not playing hard and not playing together. We're moving in the right direction, too, though. It's NCAA time - the most exciting part of the season. I'm excited about this team and I'm excited about this weekend"


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