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Women's lacrosse faces off against No. 9 Loyola

Cavaliers come off 13-12 opening loss against top-five Northwestern

The No. 6 Virginia women’s lacrosse team welcomes No. 9 Loyola (Md.) to Charlottesville this weekend for its first home game of the season. The Cavaliers opened the season with a hard-fought defeat last Sunday against No. 4 Northwestern, who secured a 13-12 win after the Wildcats broke a 12-12 tie with 16.7 seconds remaining in the game. Despite the losing effort, the team found plenty of positives from their play on the field.

“It was a complete team effort between defense, midfield and attack,” senior attacker Liza Blue said. “We just hustled. We have a lot to build from. Even though we lost, we have confidence because we worked so hard together against a top team, so I think we’re feeling good for this weekend.”

Coming into the year, the team expected returning experience on the offensive side of the ball to be a major strength. The Cavaliers (0-1, 0-0 ACC) showed their depth during Sunday’s play, displaying a dangerous offensive attack even while junior attacker Casey Bocklet, the only Cavalier to be named to preseason All-ACC and last year’s team leader in points, was held to zero points by the Northwestern defense.

“I think we do have great attackers, and Northwestern played a different style of defense on Casey that really didn’t give her many chances to touch the ball, “ coach Julie Myers said. “They took her out of her rhythm, but it was great to see Liza Blue step into that slot and really do a great job with her shooting and scoring.”

Blue led the team with four goals against the Wildcats. Also back on the field for the Cavalier offense are last year’s All-ACC honoree junior midfielder Courtney Swan and senior attacker Ashlee Warner. Swan scored three goals Sunday and assisted on another, while Warner registered an assist and three ground balls. Returning players accounted for 193 of the 220 goals scored last year.

“I think all four of us have different strengths,” Blue said. “It just happened to be a good day for me and Courtney, but at any given point Casey, Ashlee, Courtney or I can score.”

Because of the depth and experience of the offense, the Cavaliers plan to play a more free style of offense instead of relying on set plays for scoring opportunities.

“We’re not running as many plays as in the past because the four of us really know where each other are at this point, because we are all third and fourth years,” Blue said. “We’re just kind of finding each other when we’re open. We’re worrying less on structure and more on ability and athleticism. “

This weekend’s matchup against Loyola will be the second straight top-10 matchup for Virginia. It is the Greyhounds’ first game of the season.

Loyola’s women’s lacrosse team previously competed in the Big East conference before its split in July 2013, winning two of the last three Big East women’s lacrosse championships but losing in the second round of last year’s NCAA tournament to North Carolina, who defeated Virginia one round later on its path to securing the national title.

The 2013-14 season will mark Loyola’s first season competing in the Patriot League. The Greyhounds were tabbed as preseason favorites to win the conference, and senior midfielder Marlee Paton was chosen as the Patriot League Preseason Offensive Player of the Year.

Paton, along with head coach Jen Adams, were a part of the Australian Senior National team which won the silver medal at the 2009 Women’s Lacrosse World Cup.

“They are definitely an athletic team,” Blue said. “They have two girls from Australia who have very good stick work.”

Loyola also opened its season last year against Virginia, with the Cavaliers prevailing 10-9. Despite this, then-freshman Loyola goalkeeper Molly Wolf set the Greyhound record for saves in a debut, accumulating 11 in the course of the game.

“Loyola is a great team,” Myers said. “They return their entire attack and they have got a terrific goalkeeper. They are going to play with a lot to prove and they’re going to look at this as a great opportunity just like we are.”

Wolf, equipped with more experience this year, will try to stop the Cavalier’s up-tempo offense, which Myers expects to be a challenge for every opposing team this season.

“I think we have kind of the complete thing,” Myers said. “We have got one-on-one players that can also pass and finish in tight, so I think it’s kind of hard to shut down. It’s like you have a three-point shooter, but you also have an inside game. That one-on-one option out high and wide really opens everything else up. You need to have one to really take advantage of the other, and I think we have both right now.”

The opening draw is scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday at Klöckner Stadium.