On Friday, the Virginia women’s lacrosse team beat Southern California in the opening game of the NCAA tournament by a score of 13-11. The future of the program was on full display in Chapel Hill, N.C., with freshman midfielder Rachel Clark and freshman attacker Kate Miller combining for seven points and propelling the Cavaliers (10-9, 3-5 ACC) to the second round. The win marks the fifth time in a row that the Cavaliers have made it to at least the second round of the NCAA Tournament. The last time they lost in the first round was in 2016 against Johns Hopkins. For the Trojans (13-5, 8-2 PAC-12), the loss punctuates a challenging end to the season after a defeat in the PAC-12 semifinal against Arizona State.
In a game that had to be moved up to noon due to impending inclement weather, the Cavaliers took advantage of the Trojans’ poor start and got out to an early lead. Despite Southern California’s freshmen attacker Isabelle Vitale opening up the game with an early goal, the Cavaliers followed with a big run. After the goal from Vitale, Virginia pitched a shutout for the rest of the first quarter while going on a seven-goal run. This run lasted into the second quarter and gave the team an early 7-1 edge.
Clark, Hoag and Miller accounted for the first three goals of the streak with junior midfielder Jaime Biskup scoring two of her own. Sophomore attacker Morgan Schwab assisted five of the seven goals. With an impressive seven assists on her day, Schwab set her career high, besting the five she had against California Berkeley earlier this year.
The big Cavalier advantage quickly dwindled with a roaring comeback at the end of the half for the Trojans. Five goals from five different goal-scorers shrunk the Virginia lead to just one going into the half. All the momentum belonged to the Trojans going into the halftime break.
Southern California kept its first-half streak going as sophomore attacker Claudia Shevitz tied the game at seven apiece just over three minutes into the half. The Trojans completed a six-goal comeback, but the Cavaliers did not waver. Two goals from Clark and senior attacker Ashlyn McGovern reinstated the Cavalier advantage at 9-7. McGovern — an all-ACC selection — had three goals off of eight shots in her performance. Vitale got one back for the Trojans and Virginia clung on to the one-goal lead going into the fourth quarter.
Clark opened up the fourth quarter with two impressive goals placed right under the crossbar to give the Cavaliers a three-goal advantage. Clark — the only player to receive all-ACC honors along with making the all-ACC freshman team — led the Cavaliers with four goals on her day.
During the final minutes both teams exchanged two goals, but time was on the side of Virginia. After a few sloppy turnovers down the stretch by Southern California, Virginia was able to take full advantage of the shot clock to run the clock down and secure the victory.
On Sunday, the team will remain in Chapel Hill, N.C. to square off against North Carolina (18-0, 8-0 ACC). This will undoubtedly be a challenging game for the Cavaliers, but it is one that could spark feelings of revenge after North Carolina beat them 17-7 just one month ago.
The second round game will air live on ESPN+ at noon.