As winter sports end their seasons, Virginia fans can now turn to a mixture of fall and spring sports to get their fix of Cavalier athletics. It was a bit of an up-and-down week on the whole for Virginia. Baseball and softball both posted series wins over the weekend, and men’s lacrosse and field hockey also picked up victories. Women’s tennis suffered two consecutive defeats, however, and women’s soccer, men’s soccer and women’s lacrosse all joined the loss column. With such a busy week to take in, here are five takeaways to help better understand how this week went down in Virginia athletics.
Stellar pitching led Virginia softball back to winning weekend series
April proved not to bring showers for the Cavaliers, as Virginia won its first outright series in softball against Boston College since a late February contest with George Washington. The Cavaliers desperately needed to get back into the winning column after going just 2-12 in their last 14 games, and the pitching staff delivered. Sophomore pitcher Molly Grube and freshman pitcher Mikayla Houge combined to shut out the Golden Eagles in the first game of a Thursday doubleheader, and then junior pitcher Aly Rayle and freshman pitcher Madison Harris followed up with an equally impressive performance in the second match. The Cavaliers went 1-1 through the rest of the weekend, but any time the Cavaliers hold their opponents to just four runs over the entire series, it gives reason to celebrate. Look for Virginia to take its momentum defensively into the rivalry series against North Carolina next weekend.
Young talent will take Virginia softball far offensively
Overall, it was not a particularly strong output offensively for the Cavaliers this weekend, but it certainly did not start out that way. In the second game of the series against Boston College, Virginia exploded in a 9-0 win that took just five innings. Sophomore shortstop Katie Goldberg led the attack for the Cavaliers with a 3-run home run, exemplifying the wealth of young talent the Cavaliers have on the offensive end. Two Virginia athletes within the team’s top three batting averages — Goldberg and infielder Abby Weaver — are just a sophomore and freshman, respectively, and there was not a single senior in the starting lineup of that initial victory. The Cavaliers are already showing massive amounts of offensive promise and, should they continue the momentum into next season, it would be no surprise to see Virginia as one of the better hitting squads in the conference.
The trio of offensive juggernauts continue to shine for men’s lacrosse
Virginia men’s lacrosse won its third consecutive game Saturday, riding an excellent first quarter to an 18-10 victory over Richmond. As has been the case for most of the season, the three players who opponents most fear when playing Virginia shined in the win. Redshirt freshman attack Connor Shellenberger, sophomore attack Payton Cormier and senior attack Matt Moore combined for 10 of the Cavaliers’ 18 goals on the day — with Shellenberger and Moore also chipping in a combined six assists. It was, as usual, a joy to watch the trio on the offensive end, and the three players have been the engine that makes this Virginia squad go. A huge test comes for the Cavaliers next Saturday, however, as Virginia travels to Chapel Hill for a revenge game against North Carolina. The game was a shootout the first time around, so expect another high-scoring affair as the Cavaliers try to flip the script against the Tar Heels.
Men’s tennis currently is the hottest Virginia sports team competing
Men’s lacrosse is not the only Virginia program to continue its winning streak this week, as men’s tennis notched its tenth consecutive victory on Thursday, easily dispatching Virginia Tech 6-1. After a 2-1 doubles win, the Cavaliers went on to take five of the six singles courts against the Hokies, dropping just two sets total against their opponents. For fans who have been following Virginia men’s tennis lately, this kind of dominant performance should come as no surprise. During the team’s winning streak, the Cavaliers have defeated the No. 2, No. 14 and No. 29 nationally ranked squads — most of which were won in a commanding fashion. As a result, Virginia is now ranked No. 4 in the country as a team, with four Cavaliers cracking the top 100 in the individual rankings. With only two matches left before the ACC Championship, the Cavaliers seem to be peaking at the exact right time.
A long layover was the demise for women’s soccer
Perhaps no sports have been more affected by the COVID-19 pandemic than Virginia fall sports. In an unusual situation, the decision was made to split the year in two for the teams, as the ACC and NCAA disagreed on when to play the season. As a result, there was a three-month hiatus between the ACC Championship and the truncated spring season for Virginia women’s soccer — a break in play that no one found ideal. To add insult to injury, though, two games were postponed in the past month for the Cavaliers, leading their game Saturday against West Virginia to be the first time playing in nearly a month. Unfortunately, but not unexpectedly, the Cavaliers lost 1-0 to the Mountaineers on a backbreaking goal in the 85th minute. Putting the result of the game aside, it has been an extremely difficult season for the women’s soccer team due to the impact of the pandemic. Now, all that fans of the program can do is hope to finish the season strong to gain some semblance of momentum for the coming year.