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​Field hockey prepares for tough Syracuse game Saturday

With only five games left, Virginia looks to end season on a high note

<p>Junior midfielder Nadine de Koning is optimistic going into Saturday's game against No. 2 Syracuse.&nbsp;</p>

Junior midfielder Nadine de Koning is optimistic going into Saturday's game against No. 2 Syracuse. 

No. 10 Virginia has yet another top-10 this matchup this weekend when they face No. 2 Syracuse. The game is important both for the ACC tournament and the NCAA tournament. The Cavaliers (9-5, 2-2 ACC) is coming off of a 3-2 win over William & Mary.

Virginia has won five of their last six games. It is an impressive response to their biggest loss of the season, an 8-0 defeat to No. 1 Connecticut.

“I think [the loss to UConn] did make us closer,” sophomore goalkeeper Carrera Lucas said. Looking back to past years we’ve had hiccups before. Looking at all the adversity we’ve faced this year, it has come earlier than normal. That is better because we have it all together and we’re stronger.”

While the start of the season was not as smooth as expected, Virginia has responded well.

“We’ve come a really long way since the beginning of the year,” junior midfielder Nadine de Koning said. “We started the season off with some problems and we’ve grown a lot. We have gotten a lot better and improved upon many things. We are where we want to be.”

The one game they dropped since Connecticut was a 3-2 overtime loss to No. 3 North Carolina. The matchup against the nationally-ranked Orange (12-1, 4-1 ACC) should be an exciting one.

“I think we’re all just really pumped to play well and play our game. Hopefully we can beat them,” de Koning said.

Syracuse is riding a five game winning streak into Saturday. It includes wins of two top ten teams, No. 2 Duke and No. 7 Louisville. Virginia lost to the Blue Devils 3-2 earlier in the season and plays the Cardinals next week. Syracuse’s last loss was also a 3-2 loss to North Carolina, their only defeat of the season.

“I think we’re all really excited and pumped, especially after last year. We lost to them last year in a pretty bad way,” de Koning said.

The last time these two teams met was the ACC semifinals last year. Syracuse won the game 3-2. The Orange lost in the finals to North Carolina before going on to win the NCAA Championship. Beating Syracuse would be a statement win for the Cavaliers heading into the postseason.

“I think things are coming together, it hasn’t been an entirely upward trajectory. We had some mess ups in the William and Mary Game. Collectively it’s been an upward trend. We’re doing well and coming together. Things are falling into place for the postseason,” Lucas said.

With so few games left in the season, every contest counts. Especially since three of their final five opponents are in the top-10: Syracuse, Louisville and Maryland.

“We just have to take things one step at a time. We have to see the importance of each individual game and each individual practice. We’ve got to keep showing consistency and not take any plays off,” Lucas said.

Virginia has improved both defensively and offensively throughout the season. They are still hungry to keep getting better for November, when it really counts.

“I think it’s really important for us to stay connected and keep communicating with each other. At this point in the season every game matters. We really need to stay connected, play together, and work hard. There are little details we need to work on as a team,” de Koning said.

The Cavaliers play Syracuse Saturday in Charlottesville at Turf Field. The game is set to start at 1 p.m.