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Virginia women’s basketball travels to James Madison in hopes of starting off the 2021-2022 campaign with a victory

After a short-lived 2020-2021 season due to COVID-19, the Cavaliers are excited to be back on the court

<p>Toi missed her first two seasons at the University with an injury but performed well in the 2019-20 and 2020-21 campaigns — amassing 860 minutes of play in 35 total games.</p>

Toi missed her first two seasons at the University with an injury but performed well in the 2019-20 and 2020-21 campaigns — amassing 860 minutes of play in 35 total games.

The Cavaliers open their season Tuesday night at James Madison, hoping to start the season off with a win after a disappointing, shortened 2020-2021 season. Last year, Virginia was 0-5 before injuries and COVID-19 issues forced the Cavaliers to cut their season short. In the last two games of its season, Virginia only had seven healthy players on the roster, making it quite impossible to play a full 24-game season. This year, there are 14 players on the Cavaliers’ roster, including six transfers. This influx of talented players could potentially drive Virginia to its first winning season since Coach Tina Thompson has been at the helm.

The first step to that goal is Tuesday night in Harrisonburg as the Cavaliers face an experienced Dukes squad. Star junior guard Kiki Jefferson leads James Madison into its season-opening matchup against Virginia. Last season, she made the All-CAA first team while averaging 16.2 points per game, 7.8 rebounds per game and 2.4 assists per game. 

Sophomore guard Jamia Hazell, who made the CAA All-Rookie team last season, is another player the Cavaliers will have to look out for. Virginia’s backcourt will have to defend James Madison’s scorers well in order to have a chance to win. It will be interesting to see how much chemistry this new Virginia team has on the defensive end, but if the Cavaliers are unable to stop the Dukes’ potent backcourt attack then they will be in for a long night.

Transfer graduate student forward Eleah Parker should be able to help Virginia defensively. At the University of Pennsylvania, she was a two-time Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year, and her presence in the paint should be able to deter the quick James Madison guards from scoring inside.

Offensively for Virginia, graduate student Amandine Toi returns to Charlottesville as the leading scorer from last season. She averaged 14 points, 2.6 rebounds and two assists per game last year — although that was only through five games.

The Cavaliers will also look to junior transfer forward London Clarkson to provide a spark on offensive. At Florida State, Clarkson did not receive much playing time, but she has offensive potential as she was ranked as the 68th player nationally out of high school. Her first assignment will be difficult for the Cavaliers, matching up with the Dukes’ star guard, Jefferson. 

Picked 15th in the ACC preseason poll, Virginia will have an uphill battle to reach the NCAA Tournament this season, but a win against James Madison could help build momentum for a program that has been on the decline. Last season, Virginia lost to the Dukes 71-67 at John Paul Jones Arena. Tuesday’s game will showcase a new team of Cavaliers who are looking to rebound from last season's woes.

The game between Virginia and James Madison will tip-off Tuesday night at 7 p.m. in Harrisonburg at the Atlantic Union Bank Center. The game will be available for streaming on FloSports.