Previewing 2019 Virginia field hockey

The Cavaliers look to bounce back from disappointing 2018 season

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Virginia was knocked out of the first round of the NCAA Tournament by Princeton in 2017 and 2018.

Courtesy Virginia Athletics

The 2018 season was a rocky campaign for Virginia, as the Cavaliers were never able to overcome an uncharacteristically slow start. The season ended with an early exit from the NCAA Tournament. However, with a promising cohort of incoming freshmen and a talented roster still at Coach Michele Madison’s disposal, the No. 11 Cavaliers are expected to be a contender in the ACC.

2018 recap

Virginia had a tumultuous season in 2018, marked by multiple losing streaks and a late resurgence leading to a promising ACC Tournament finish. Last year’s team struggled out of the gate to a 4-7 record, but finished strong, winning five of the last eight games. Two crucial wins for momentum came against then No. 2 Maryland and No. 15 Wake Forest.

Overall, however, Virginia did not play up to the program’s historic success. The team finished 9-10 overall and 2-4 in the ACC — a tough result considering the Cavaliers’ 14-5, 5-1 ACC finish in 2017. Virginia lost in the first round of the NCAA Tournament to Princeton last year.

Storylines to watch

Virginia enters the season ranked No. 11 in the NFCHA Coaches Poll. 

The team has strong returners — junior striker Makayla Gallen and sophomore midfielder Greer Gill led the Cavaliers in 2018 with four goals apiece and are expected to once again propel the Virginia offense. The Cavaliers will need more from them and incoming attackers, however, as the Cavaliers often struggled to produce goals last year.

In addition to Gallen and Gill, junior midfielder Rachel Robinson and sophomore back Amber Ezechiels will provide an edge this season for Virginia. Both players were voted to the Preseason All-ACC team.

Six freshmen will also look to make an immediate impact on the 2019 team. The freshman class is composed of Dutch recruits — back Cato Geusgens and striker Laura Janssen — midfielder Danielle Husar from Canada, midfielder Adele Iacobucci from Malvern, Pa., striker Olivia Marrus from Houston, Texas and back Abbigail Starnes from Chesapeake, Va.

A testament to the historic success of the program, Madison enters the season with 394 wins in her career. She is looking to become just the 9th coach in Division I history to reach 400 wins in her career, having already accumulated the winningest coaching tenure in Virginia field hockey history.

Schedule breakdown

Virginia opens the season looking to avenge an unexpected overtime loss from 2018 against Old Dominion in Norfolk Aug. 30. Another stop on the revenge tour will see the Cavaliers host defending champions North Carolina Sept. 27 at Turf Field.

The rest of Virginia’s non-conference schedule features matches vs. Penn State (Sept. 1), vs. UMass Lowell (Sept. 6), vs. Ohio State (Sept. 8), at Maryland (Sept. 13), vs. Yale (Sept. 15), vs. James Madison (Sept. 24), at Longwood (Sept. 29), vs. Old Dominion (Oct. 6), at Miami (OH) (Oct. 13) and vs. Liberty (Oct. 28).

Virginia’s ACC competition starts at Syracuse (Sept. 20), vs. North Carolina (Sept. 27), vs. Boston College (Oct. 4), at Louisville (Oct. 11), vs. Duke (Oct. 18) and finishes at Wake Forest (Nov. 1). 

Virginia looks to return to double digit wins this season as the Cavaliers begin the chase for the first NCAA championship in program history.

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