Credit the schedulers for providing the Virginia field hockey team with a high-profile matchup for its ACC home-opener, as the No. 3 Cavaliers welcome No. 1 Maryland to Turf Field today.
The matchup between the Cavaliers (9-0, 1-0 ACC) and Terrapins (8-1, 2-0 ACC) pits two of the sport's most highly touted programs against one another.
"I think the quality of the two teams will make the game a goal-fest," coach Michele Madison said. "Hopefully [it will be that way] for the fans."
Although she expects a high-scoring affair, Madison is confident that her defense can step up and help the Cavaliers assert themselves as the team to beat in the ACC.
"It's all going to boil down to whose defense steps up and how many errors we make," Madison said. "All of the matchups are going to be contested. These players are familiar with each other and very good."
Friendly yet competitive ties run deep between the two schools. Of particular note, Virginia's junior All-ACC midfielders Paige Selenski and Michelle Vittese trained with Maryland's senior Honda Award winner Katie O'Donnell on the U.S. national field hockey team, and freshman forward Elly Buckley's sister Jemma is a junior defender for the Terrapins.
Maryland has had the upper hand against Virginia, having compiled a 35-19-2 series record. Virginia, in fact, has not beaten the Terrapins since the 2001-02 season.
Madison, rarely the one to look ahead, is not shying away from the ramifications of the looming matchup.
"We know we're going to play the likes of Maryland and UNC again in the conference [and NCAA] tournaments, but that doesn't mean that this isn't a game we have to win," Madison said.
Virginia may be catching an elite Maryland squad at the right time. The Terrapins are coming off their first setback of the year, a 4-2 loss at No. 4 Princeton last Tuesday.
Virginia, on the other hand, is still riding the momentum of an undefeated season. The Cavaliers are coming off a 3-2 overtime victory at Boston College and a 5-2 win at Cornell last weekend.
Noting that she expects a close game, Madison insists that her team's experience with overtime will help it gain a mental edge.
"We're going to have to be composed and keep possession, like always. We can't let down and let Maryland capitalize on penalty corners and our mistakes," Madison said. "Our players were tired at the end of [regulation of] the Boston College game, but they were more angry that they let a 2-0 lead halftime slip away. We'll need to channel this anger into something positive."
Game time for this afternoon's showdown is 5 p.m.