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Men's lacrosse hosts Georgetown

No. 8 Cavs to honor six seniors before matchup with defensive-minded No. 17 Hoyas

After Sunday’s 15-8 loss to Duke, the Virginia men’s lacrosse team finds itself in an uncomfortable yet familiar spot, having missed the ACC tournament for the second year in a row. Virginia is just 1-15 in its last 16 contests with the Blue Devils, and will conclude the regular season Saturday against Big East foe Georgetown with no ACC wins.

But when you play in a conference like the ACC, nothing comes easy.

Despite their in-conference struggles, the Cavaliers (8-5, 0-5 ACC) still rank as the eighth best team in the country, with Duke (9-4, 2-3 ACC) resting just two spots ahead of them at No. 6. The remaining three ACC teams, Notre Dame (8-1, 3-0 ACC), Syracuse (8-2, 2-2 ACC) and North Carolina (12-1, 3-0 ACC), sit at one, two and three in the official NCAA RPI, making the ACC one of the most powerful conferences in the country.

“When we’re out there recruiting we tell kids that if they want to play the best lacrosse in the country then they’re coming to Virginia or another ACC school,” Virginia coach Dom Starsia said.

The Cavaliers are currently ranked ninth and 10th, respectively, in the USILA and Inside Lacrosse polls, while the four remaining ACC teams managed to crack the top 10 — Notre Dame ranks first, North Carolina second, Syracuse fourth and Duke sixth in both polls — making it hard to argue that the ACC isn’t the best lacrosse conference in the country.

When you throw in the fact that these five teams combined have lost just three nonconference games this year, it makes the argument nearly impossible.

So although the Cavaliers will once again be absent from the ACC tournament, it would be unfair to say that they’ve had a disappointing season. Virginia has battled through inexperience — returning just one defensive starter in sophomore goalie Matt Barrett — and injury — losing junior attackman James Pannell to a torn ACL midway through the season — to retain a top-10 ranking for the larger part of the 2015 campaign.

“Defensively we’ve been getting better every single game,” senior midfielder Ryan Tucker said. “If we continue that trend we’ll be good to go.”

Barrett has become one of the country’s elite goalies and currently ranks fourth nationally with 13.42 saves per game, which is even more impressive than meets the eye considering Notre Dame, North Carolina, Syracuse and Duke deploy top-10 scoring offenses. Tucker has also turned in a career season, accounting for 33 points thus far after tallying just 30 all of last season.

But now the question will be how Virginia rebounds Saturday against Georgetown, which has been a tough team all season long.

The No. 10 Hoyas (8-4, 3-1 Big East) opened up their season with a 14-12 loss to Notre Dame in a game that remained very close until the Irish finally pulled away with 12:20 remaining. Then, just under three weeks later, Duke found itself in an unexpected battle with Georgetown as well, although the Blue Devils were able to pull out a 15-13 win thanks to a four-goal rally in the final quarter of the contest.

The Hoyas have proven they have one of the best defenses in the country. Led by freshman goalie Nick Marrocco, 13.58 saves per game, Georgetown allows just 10.67 goals per game and holds opponents to 29.8 percent shooting. Virginia, therefore, will rely heavily on stellar offensive performances by Tucker and junior midfielder Greg Coholan — who currently leads the team in scoring — to rebound.

But the Cavaliers don’t seem to be too worried about that.

“For a younger group they’re very resilient,” Starsia said. “They may be too young to understand everything that’s going on around them, but we seem to be able to bounce back and get back to work.”

Faceoff against the Hoyas is set for 1 p.m. at Klöckner Stadium. The Cavaliers will honor six seniors — Tucker, midfielder Tyler German, defender Davi Sacco, attackman Owen Van Arsdale, long-stick midfielder Tanner Ottenbreit and defender Thompson Brown — prior to the game.