Virginia seeks Senior Day statement

Players aim to break into ACC

With only two regular season ACC matchups remaining, the No. 9 Virginia women's lacrosse team attempts to continue its ascent in the conference standings as it hosts No. 20 Boston College tomorrow afternoon.

The Cavaliers (7-4, 1-2 ACC), currently touting a three-game winning streak, rose from the ACC's basement last weekend with a narrow 14-12 upset against No. 6 Duke. But previous losses to Maryland and North Carolina have kept the recently red-hot team from moving higher than fourth in the six-team conference.

A win during this weekend's top-20 showdown could propel Virginia into the top half of the conference as the team heads into the final stretch of the regular season.

The Eagles (5-5, 1-2 ACC) also enter tomorrow's tilt hungry for conference glory. After manhandling Virginia Tech earlier this month, Boston College dropped back-to-back ACC matchups against the Terrapins and Tar Heels, the latter of whom narrowly edged the Eagles during a 9-8 heartbreaker last weekend.

"[Boston College is] coming in hungry; they are pretty desperate for an ACC win and another one to try and get them to postseason," Virginia coach Julie Myers said. "We're going to need to bring our A-game, and hopefully, since we've seen that before, we know we have it in us."

To collect their fourth victory against a ranked opponent this season, the Cavaliers must dampen the offensive firepower of Eagles' points leader freshman attacker Covie Stanwick. The younger sister of Virginia men's lacrosse standout Steele Stanwick currently boasts 19 goals and 14 assists during her first collegiate campaign and ranks first on her team with a remarkable .54 shot percentage.

Freshman midfielder Mikaela Rix should also attract the attention of Virginia's defense, which surrendered nine second-half goals during Wednesday night's 14-13 win against Old Dominion. Rix was InsideLacrosse's No. 3 recruit out of high school and has notched a team-high 28 goals while also converting on 7-of-12 free position attempts.

Meanwhile, freshman goalkeeper Emily Mata steadies Boston College's defense with heads-up play between the pipes. The reigning ACC Defensive Player of the Week, Mata shares time in the cage with senior Catherine Conway but tallied a personal-best 15 saves against North Carolina. Mata leads the team in saves and goals-against average.

"Boston College has a lot of good, younger players, and they're going to be tough," senior midfielder Julie Gardner said. "The ACC always has tough rivalries, but it's fun, too... I think we'll have a lot of energy for it."

Conference bragging rights aside, the Cavaliers have circled tomorrow's clash as a must-win game because they will be celebrating Senior Day with Virginia faithfuls before the opening draw. Gardner, attacker Charlie Finnigan, attacker Josie Owen, defender Annie Taylor and redshirt senior attacker Ainsley Baker will be honored before the game for their sustained contributions to the program - including 46 wins and three straight trips to the NCAA Tournament during the last four seasons.

"They're some of the strongest players that I've ever played with, and they're just straight competitors," junior midfielder Anne Thomas said. "They get us energized, whether it's at practices or at games. On or off the field, they help no matter what... They've definitely contributed a lot to the University and this team."

Gardner said regardless of the outcome, she will relish her final moments in a Virginia uniform. "It's been a good four years, and I have had a lot of good memories on this field," she said. "I know I'm going to miss it next year, so I'm trying to just take in every single moment that I can, whether it's good or bad, and remember it for whatever I end up doing after college."

Tomorrow's opening draw is scheduled for 1 p.m. The Cavaliers will conclude their home regular season slate Monday 7 p.m. against Harvard.

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