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Squad slaughters VCU before loss to Lions

After dominant home display against Rams, No. 3-ranked Cavs struggle to sustain offense against stifling Penn State

The Virginia field hockey team opened its season at home with a bittersweet opening weekend. Friday evening, the Cavaliers defeated Virginia Commonwealth, 8-1, before falling to Penn State Sunday in a disappointing 3-0 loss.

"They know how they can play when we run the system, and what happens if you don't run the system," coach Michele Madison said.

The No. 3 Cavaliers (1-1) stormed out of the gate Friday against VCU (1-1) by scoring four goals during the opening eight minutes, including two from junior forward Britt Knouse. The speed and aggression of the Virginia attack quickly overwhelmed the unranked Rams and set the pace for the rest of the game, as Virginia fired off 24 total shots while holding VCU to only two. VCU did manage to convert on its only shot on target, netting a 34th-minute goal from junior forward Kelsey Scherrer heading into halftime.

Virginia picked up where it left off in the second half, scoring three more goals. Sophomore forward and captain Elly Buckley added her second goal of the day in the 46th minute on an unassisted shot from inside the circle. The Cavaliers dominated on penalty corners by holding VCU to just two while taking 10 of their own - three of which they converted into goals. Unable to keep pace with the Cavaliers, VCU could not manage to make a dent in the lead during the second half.

The Sunday matchup against No. 8 Penn State (1-1) proved to be much more challenging and ultimately unsuccessful for Virginia. The Nittany Lions pressured the Cavaliers for much of the first half by controlling the tempo of the game with their aggressive style of play. Virginia only managed one shot to Penn State's eight and struggled getting the ball down the field.

"We couldn't get our passing game going, we got a little away from the game plan," Madison said. "And once you break structure, it kind of feels like you're out there alone, and that's how we played. Once they came out, they played really physical, and we definitely weren't ready for that."

The Nittany Lions opened the scoring with an unassisted goal from sophomore forward Lauren Purvis in the 17th minute and took the 1-0 lead into halftime. The second half played out much like the first, with a brutal Penn State possession attack holding the Cavaliers back and thwarting any counterattacking opportunities.

"We just didn't come out ready today, and I think Penn State really came out with a rush," senior midfielder and captain Rachel Jennings said. "They wanted the ball, and I just don't think we played to our potential today at all."

Some opportunities opened up for Virginia later in the game as the team took all of its eight penalty corners during the second half. It looked as if the team might break through late in the game, with four penalty corners during the last five minutes of the game, but the Cavaliers failed to convert on any of them. Penn State tacked on its second goal early into the second half and added a final insurance goal from redshirt junior forward Hannah Allison off a penalty corner in the 54th minute. The loss was Virginia's first non-conference loss since 2008 - also against Penn State.

"Penn State was a tough, fast team, and I think we need to learn how to play against teams like that," Jennings said. "We're in the ACC, we're in the best conference, and we need adapt to this kind of play and this fast pace."

The team looks to recover from the loss as it hits the road this weekend for games against Towson Friday and No. 12 Old Dominion Sunday.

"Every game we play has to make us better," Madison said, "and this will make us better for sure"