The third-ranked Virginia field hockey team returns home for an out-of-conference matchup against William & Mary tonight after losing a crucial conference game to North Carolina Saturday in heartbreaking fashion.
The Cavaliers (11-2, 1-2 ACC) fell into an early 2-0 deficit while visiting the No. 1 Tar Heels' home turf before coming back to tie the game with 12 minutes on the clock. But North Carolina scored the game-winning goal off a penalty corner - a persistent issue for Virginia this season - with less than five minutes remaining and ultimately won the game 3-2.
"We battled back from an early hole, which is very positive," Virginia coach Michele Madison said. "But we got in the early [2-0 disadvantage] because we rushed a bit and sometimes weren't aware of extra passes and our surroundings, and we over-dribbled a bit."
Madison noted that the loss to North Carolina, combined with her team's defeat two weeks earlier by Maryland, most likely takes the squad out of contention for the conference regular season title. With that in mind, she wants her team to focus on improving everyday regardless of opponent.
The Cavaliers' next obstacle is in-state foe William & Mary (3-11, 1-4 CAA), which lost to No. 16 Duke 1-0 on Friday. The Tribe features sophomore forward Ashley Kyle and senior midfielder Erica Eng, who both lead the team with seven points this season.
Although William & Mary's record is not particularly intimidating, Virginia knows better than to overlook an in-state rival. The Cavaliers only narrowly beat Longwood Oct. 6 - the last in-state opponent they faced.
"No in-state team is going to take us lightly," Madison said. "We have to come to play and continually improve. William & Mary will provide us with a tough game."
Senior goalkeeper Kim Kastuk agreed with Madison, adding that the team is focused on making progress heading into the latter half of its season.
"The scene after the North Carolina loss wasn't happy," Kastuk said. "Coach [Madison], the players, we were all disappointed. You lose to top teams like we have ... We've only lost two games this season but we are [1-2] in conference play. Practice was focused on just improving as an entire team unit and learning not to rush decisions, which will help us."
Faceoff against the Tribe is set for 6 p.m. Monday at the Turf Field.