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Cavs face rematch in ACC tourney

After narrow 2-1 victory Saturday, Virginia faces Duke in first-round game

Virginia field hockey coach Michele Madison has preached the "three Ps" - ball possession, defensive pressure and fervent positivity - to her team throughout the season.

After heartbreaking losses to top-ranked Maryland and second-ranked North Carolina - which constitute the team's only two losses of the season - Madison encouraged her players to stay "obnoxiously positive" and improve in the first two categories. Her team has responded in a big way, continually improving during the season.

No. 3 Virginia (15-2, 3-2 ACC) has the opportunity to execute all "three Ps" and avenge its losses when it begins play in the ACC Tournament in Winston-Salem, N.C. today. The Cavaliers face a first-round matchup at 3:30 p.m. against No. 20 Duke (8-10, 0-5 ACC), who they beat 2-1 last Saturday, and a potential semifinal showdown against No. 2 North Carolina tomorrow.

The Cavaliers know better than to look past Duke, however. The Blue Devils played well against Virginia last Saturday, matching the Cavaliers defensively before conceding the game-winning goal to All-ACC freshman forward Elly Buckley with less than two minutes to spare.

The Blue Devils again will funnel their attack through freshman midfielder Emmie Le Marchand, who never managed a shot against an aggressive Virginia defense. Junior midfielder Tara Jennings, who scored Duke's lone goal against the Cavaliers, will be another player to watch.

Madison asserted that despite coming away with the victory, the team had an off day against the Blue Devils last Saturday and cannot afford a similar letdown in the competitive tournament setting.

"Duke came to play," Madison said. "They played well, and I don't think our team matched their intensity. It was a must-win for them, and it seemed like we thought we could just coast by. Hopefully the game showed us that we can't get into a lull like that. We will play a hungry [Duke] team again, and we can't look ahead to anything else other than our game Thursday."

Junior defender Rachel Jennings said the team will bounce back from its less-than-convincing performance against Duke last Saturday with vengeance.

"We didn't perform as well as we could against Duke, but the game proved that we have what it takes to win," Jennings said. "We had an off day, and this week in practice, we're refocusing ourselves and working harder to make sure we come out strong in the tournament. We're optimistic, absolutely."

All-ACC junior midfielder Paige Selenski shared Jennings's sentiments, adding that the players feel tactically and mentally prepared for a deep tournament run.

"We know that if we play in [Madison's] system, we have the ability to play with anyone and accomplish our goals," Selenski said. "We just need to focus on keeping possession, and when we do that we can play to our potential. If we focus on [the "three Ps"], I like our chances"