Preseason All-ACC midfielders Paige Selenski and Michelle Vittese missed the preseason and significant practice time with the Virginia field hockey team because of national team commitments, but the players' lack of practice with the rest of the team was far from evident during Labor Day weekend home-openers.
Selenski, in particular, scored six total goals during the Cavaliers' 5-2 and 2-0 wins against No. 16 Old Dominion and Northwestern.
The third-ranked Cavaliers (4-0) opened Sunday's win against the Lady Monarchs (1-4) in style during the first minute when Selenski scored on a pass from sophomore midfielder Tara Puffenberger. Selenski added another goal in the 16th minute off a penalty stroke.
Despite Virginia's two quick goals, Old Dominion did not fall apart. Its persistence was rewarded when senior midfielder Loran Hatch scored two goals off penalty corners in the 20th and 43rd minutes to tie the match.
"They played big-ball field hockey with their big players, and we started to play like that, too," Selenski said. "We had to adjust in the second half and play our game."
Virginia made appropriate changes during the second half, concentrating more on ball-possession. Playing at their own pace, the Cavaliers turned a 2-1 halftime lead into a 5-2 victory. Puffenberger scored the go-ahead goal during the 57th minute, and Selenski added two more to cap off her career-high four-goal effort.
The All-American continued her impressive form during Monday's 2-0 win against Northwestern (3-3), scoring both Virginia goals.
Both defenses shined as the two teams played to a scoreless tie during the first half. Virginia took four times as many shots as the Wildcats during the first half, going 12-3, but Northwestern's Amanda Wirth was sharp with eight saves.
"We looked a little flat to begin the match even though we were really excited to play," coach Michele Madison said. "There wasn't enough firepower from us to start off the match, and we gave them too much space and possession."
The Cavaliers played sharper during the second half, applying more pressure on the Wildcats and constantly challenging their defense with several solid attacking possessions.
Virginia's second-half persistence paid dividends when Selenski scored two goals during a one-minute span. At the 42:07 mark, Selenski deflected Elly Buckley's shot from the top of the circle into the net for the go-ahead goal. Exactly one minute later, Selenski ran around a Northwestern defender and shot the ball past Wirth for the Cavaliers' second goal.
Despite Selenski's impressive offensive performance, Madison was quick to praise her team's defensive efforts. Junior back Rachel Jennings and freshman back Chloe Pendlebury, who led the Cavaliers' back line, echoed Madison's sentiments.
"As long as we stay as a group and consistently stop [balls] from getting in, our team efforts will help us win," Pendlebury said.