The fourth-ranked Virginia field hockey team (9-1, 1-1 ACC) is set to welcome in-state foe Longwood (3-9, 1-2 NorPac) to University Hall Turf Field for a midweek match.
The Cavaliers are coming off a heartbreaking 2-1 home overtime loss to No. 1 Maryland last Friday. The team is learning from its mistakes against Maryland, coach Michele Madison said, and it will do what it can to improve against Longwood.
"[Specifically,] we have to work on reducing penalty corners and keeping possession," Madison said. "Our defensive objective [against Maryland] was to minimize the corners ... We have to be able to shut down the corners and play cleaner defense."
Considering that both Maryland goals during the Cavaliers' loss came off penalty corners - and considering that penalty corners turning into opposition goals have been a theme of Virginia's season so far - the team knows that they have to fix the problem.
"We performed well [against Maryland], but penalty corners are obviously an issue that we have to fix," junior midfielder Paige Selenski said. "We can't slip up and let teams get into games like we did."
Junior midfielder Rachel Jennings added that the team has almost given games away because of penalty corner issues.
"We let Boston College come back against us because of penalty corners and we've had another overtime game like that as well," Jennings said. "Our defense is great, but inside the circle, we have to play like we can."
Madison said the penalty corner problem could be more mental than physical.
"We have such a good defense - it's puzzling why we concede the amount of penalty corners we do," Madison said. "I think when the ball gets inside the circle, the players just start to get overaggressive and go in a frenzy."
The Lancers provide Virginia a great opportunity to showcase an improved defense. Longwood features two prolific scorers - freshman South African forward Stacey de Grandhomme and senior defender Lauren van de Kamp, who lead the team with 14 and 15 points, respectively - and the team averages a respectable six penalty corners per game. Longwood has lost 11 consecutive games against Virginia with their last victory coming in 1980. But the squad has already lost to ACC teams North Carolina, Duke and Wake Forest, so the Cavaliers are confident that they can play their game and improve against the Lancers.
"There's the Princeton game [on Friday], but we can't look past this game," Madison said. "Longwood is a good team, so we'll play our game and work on what we did wrong [against Maryland]. We're confident in our chances then and [will] prepare for Princeton"