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Virginia squad extends win streak to eight

No. 5 Virginia blasts Yale 4-0, No. 19 New Hampshire 7-0; unflinching defense posts consecutive shutouts

The No. 5 Virginia field hockey team continued its recent surge and extended its winning streak to eight this weekend with victories against Yale and No. 19 New Hampshire.

The Cavaliers (13-2, 2-0 ACC) were virtually flawless on both sides of the ball in the pair of back-to-back games that completed a 4-0 homestand. On offense, seven different Virginia players scored en route to a 4-0 victory against the Bulldogs(3-7, 1-2 Ivy League) and a 7-0 triumph against the Wildcats (6-6, 2-0 American East). Defensively, the Cavaliers not only shut out both opponents, but also gave up a mere three shots on goal.

“The team keeps getting better every game,” coach Michele Madison said. “We’re growing and adding on components that we’re grabbing onto really well. To play back-to-back games that composed and that structured was really good to see.”

Against Yale, the Cavaliers found much of their early success through their seven first-half penalty corners. Just over five minutes into the contest, redshirt senior forward Paige Selenski scored the first goal, and with three minutes left in the half, freshman forward Taylor Brown notched the first score of her career. Both goals came from plays set up by penalty corners.

“At practice last week, we had tried a lot of different corners, so we thought we would try them out against other teams,” junior back Chloe Pendlebury said. “When you mix up the execution on the penalty corners, it makes it really hard for the defense to read them.”

In the second half, the Cavaliers expanded their lead with an unassisted goal by junior back Elly Buckley and a second goal from Selenski. The Bulldogs were held to just one shot all game — a desperate attempt coming with just two minutes remaining — and Virginia did not give up a single penalty corner. Virginia goalkeepers sophomore Jenny Johnstone and freshman Rebecca Holden each played a half to combine for the shutout, but neither was forced to make a save.

“We didn’t give up a single penalty corner, which was our aim for the day,” Pendlebury said. “We’ve been working on something called ‘denial D,’ meaning we’re really stepping up and pretty much denying the other team the ball and not letting them advance into the defense.”

After less than 24 hours of rest, the Cavaliers were back out on Turf Field Sunday to play New Hampshire. Virginia looked equally dominant against a team that came into the weekend as Virginia’s more fearsome opponent of the two.

Buckley struck first for the Cavaliers with a blast from the center of the circle, and sophomore forward Rachel Sumfest extended the lead to 2-0 after strategically positioning herself near the goal to knock in a cross from senior back Phoebe Willis. Virginia scored once more before halftime when a penalty corner set up Selenski’s third goal of the weekend.

“The game was really fun,” Sumfest said. “We came out ready to play, pushed the tempo and played our system. We were ready to put some points on the board and show what we had.”

The Cavaliers did not hold back in the second half as they continued to build on their lead. Sumfest scored her second goal of the game on a cross from redshirt senior midfielder Michelle Vittese. Five minutes later, Vittese then scored an unassisted goal, splitting the Wildcat defense for a clean look. In the final 10 minutes, junior forward Elizabeth Hanks and sophomore midfielder Jess Orrett brought the Cavalier total up to seven. Before Sunday, the Wildcats had not conceded more than three goals in a game.

“Today what was really great was that we had a number of different goal scorers,” Selenski said. “Everyone stepped up and everyone played their role. That’s what you need to do to beat quality opponents.”

All three Virginia goalkeepers saw playing time in Sunday’s contest with senior Amanda Crider joining the fray. Johnston played the majority of the game and tallied all of the Cavaliers’ three saves. The Wildcats were held to just three shots on goal as opposed to Virginia’s 19.

“On defense, we really built off what we had been doing earlier in the season,” Johnstone said. “We’re getting stronger and stronger. We’re really working on pressuring and keeping the ball out wide. I think that when we all get into position we’re really strong. Hardly anything got through today.”

The win against New Hampshire was the Cavaliers’ eighth against an opponent who has been ranked at some point this season and was their fifth shut out of the season. Virginia will close out the regular season against four more ranked opponents in as many games, including two in the top five.