The No. 10 Virginia field hockey team is looking to win its third straight game, and seven of its last eight when they play Richmond Tuesday. The win would add to a strong stretch of play for the Cavaliers (10-5, 3-2 ACC).
“It was a good win. It’s always huge to beat Syracuse, especially since they were ranked number two in the country,” senior midfielder Lucy Hyams said. “Now it’s on to the next game. We’re taking it one game at a time.”
Hyams was responsible for the winning overtime goal against Syracuse (12-2, 4-2 ACC). She scored off of a penalty corner from junior midfielder Tara Vittese less than five minutes into the overtime period, and it was the game’s only goal.
Virginia’s win snapped a five-game winning streak for Syracuse. The Orange’s only other loss this year was to North Carolina in another overtime game.
Sophomore goalkeeper Carrera Lucas had another good performance, recording her fourth shutout of the year with seven saves. Syracuse had eight shots on goal and 13 shots total. That was compared to six shots on goal for the Cavaliers and 11 shots total.
“Any ACC win is big, and coming down to tournament time, the NCAA looks at your body of work,” head coach Michele Madison said. “They look to see whether you keep improving.”
Compared to earlier in the season, Virginia has less to worry about regarding the NCAA tournament. Despite being ranked in the top five heading into the year, the Cavaliers had a rocky start. They were at about .500 just one month ago.
“I think over the last three years I’ve been here, we have kind of gotten into a hole as the regular season ends,” Hyams said. “This year feels different. We’re prepared, ready to go and excited for the postseason.”
However, Virginia is not getting ahead of itself. Instead, the Cavaliers are focusing on their next opponent, Richmond. Madison said that beating Richmond is the most important thing heading into tournament play.
The Spiders (6-7, 4-2 A10) have not had the best season but will not be overlooked, especially since in-state games tend to draw more attention.
“It’s going to be tricky — it’s always tricky against these teams. William & Mary was a tough game too,” Hyams said. “In-state rivalries are always hard.”
Many teams are still in contention to win the ACC regular season title. No. 4 Duke is the only team with one conference loss, with Virginia, North Carolina and Syracuse all having two.
Virginia will have to beat No. 7 Louisville for a shot at the regular season title. Even with a win, the Cavaliers will need some help. The Blue Devils (13-2, 4-1 ACC) and the Tar Heels (11-3, 4-2 ACC) will face each again, with their first matchup a 3-2 win for North Carolina.
The Cavaliers feel they are in good position heading into the end of the year. They have only four games left — two of which are against top-10 ranked teams, one against the Cardinals (13-3, 2-3 ACC) and the other is against No. 6 Maryland. However, improvements can always be made.
“Some things are really good, [but there are] some things we’re still working on,” Madison said. “It’s a step-by-step process [of] fine-tuning everything,”
Virginia plays at Richmond Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. The Cavaliers’ game against Louisville is set for Friday at 5:30 p.m. in Charlottesville.