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Virginia faces unbeaten Tribe

Team tries to rebound Northeastern loss, snap William & Mary's five-game winning streak

The No. 6 Virginia field hockey team continues its road stint Tuesday night as it faces unbeaten William & Mary at Williamsburg.

The Cavaliers (5-2) return from a weekend trip to East Lansing where they split games against two ranked opponents. In both games the Cavaliers dominated the pace offensively but converted just four of their 42 shots into goals.

“This past weekend was a little bittersweet,” coach Michele Madison said. “We were creating a lot of attack, which is what we needed to do, but we needed to get a higher percentage attack.”

Virginia opened with a Friday afternoon game against No. 20 Michigan State. The Spartans (3-3) showed off their defensive prowess, limiting the Cavaliers to only one goal during regulation despite numerous offensive opportunities. Redshirt senior Paige Selenski scored the lone goal 90 seconds into the game, but the Cavaliers were ultimately held to fewer than two regulation goals for the first time all season.

“If you look at the stats, we’re dominating and we’re getting penetration in the circle, but we’re just not finishing yet,” sophomore forward Rachel Sumfest said. “As long as we can get people in goal scoring positions and keep being relentless in the circle I think everything will come together.”

Michigan State matched the Cavaliers’ goal early in the game, which proved to be enough to send the match to overtime. After one scoreless period in extra time, junior back Elly Buckley ended the game in double overtime with a golden goal assisted by Selenski.

The Cavaliers, however, did not fare as well against No. 14 Northeastern. The Huskies (5-0) stormed out of the gates, scoring twice in the first nine minutes of play — a deficit the Cavaliers could not erase. Redshirt senior midfielder Michelle Vittese cut the Northeastern lead to one with an unassisted goal, but early in the second half the Huskies struck again.

“When you fall back in a game in the first few minutes you feel like you’re catching up the whole time,” junior midfielder Carissa Vittese said. “As soon as we lost the first goal I felt like it got really frantic and chaotic on the field. It definitely changed the pace of the game for us.”

As the game wound down, Buckley found the net on a penalty corner, giving the Cavaliers a chance to force overtime. Madison decided to pull the goalie, but the one-man offensive advantage was not enough to break through the Husky defense, and the Cavaliers became the third ranked team to fall to Northeastern this season.

“It was a tough weekend,” sophomore back Maddie DeCerbo said. “We came out a little flat. We need to start games like we want to finish them, so that’s what we’re going to work on — being relentless the entire time instead of just at the end.”

While the Cavaliers got a lot of quality offensive possessions, missed opportunities marked the weekend. Virginia outshot the two teams 42 to 17 but was unable to convert them into much-needed goals. The team’s performance on penalty corners also blighted the weekend.

“I’d like to see improvement on scoring and on our [penalty] corners,” Vittese said. “In both of the games we had a total of 25 penalty corners and we only scored on one of them. We definitely need to capitalize on those opportunities and score more goals.”

Despite the relatively weak performance by the Cavaliers this weekend, the team still leads the ACC in points, assists and shots. Defense has been its kryptonite, however, and Virginia sits last in the conference for goals allowed.

“One of the things we talked about defensively was our initial set-up,” DeCerbo said. “That way if there is a turnover or something, we’ll be in the right position to get the ball instead of being really frantic.”

The Tribe (5-0) has enjoyed one of the most impressive starts in the nation, outscoring opponents 23-5 and boasting two shutouts. William & Mary leads the Colonial Athletic Association in goals and assists, while also ranking second in goals allowed. The Tribe is led by senior back Christine Johnson and senior forward Allison Moran, who rank third and fourth respectively in points scored in the CAA.

The Cavaliers currently ride a seven-game winning streak against William & Mary, which dates back to 2005. No Virginia team under Madison has fallen to the team. When the new NFHCA Coaches Poll is released Tuesday night, however, it is possible that the Tribe could enter the rankings and become Virginia’s fourth consecutive ranked opponent.

“William & Mary is undefeated and very strong,” Madison said. “It’s always a hard game against them … They’re very well coached. They’ll be ready to play, so we’ll have to be ready to play.”