Last weekend saw No. 5 Virginia field hockey travel to College Park, Md. for the first and second rounds of the 2023 NCAA championship, facing off against No. 13 Saint Joseph’s Friday and No. 4 Maryland Sunday. Friday afternoon saw the Cavaliers (13-6, 3-3 ACC) edge out the Hawks (16-5, 7-0 A 10) 2-1, followed by a dominant 4-0 shutout victory Sunday against the Terrapins (17-6, 6-2 Big 10). These wins mean that Virginia has secured a place in the NCAA semifinals for the sixth time in program history.
First Round — Virginia 2, Saint Joseph’s 1
The Cavaliers got off to a strong start against the Hawks, taking the lead in the first quarter and holding onto it for the rest of the match.
Virginia went out hard offensively in the first quarter, giving Saint Joseph’s little attacking opportunity. The Cavaliers’ first penalty corner came in the fourth minute by senior midfielder Meghen Hengerer, but a subsequent shot in the fifth minute by junior defender Jans Croon went wide. A second shot came just over a minute later by junior striker Taryn Tkachuk, but this also went wide.
Saint Joseph’s only offensive opportunity in the first quarter came in the 11th minute when a penalty corner by senior midfielder Celeste Smits resulted in a shot on goal by senior forward Lily Santi, which was saved by Virginia junior goalkeeper Tyler Kennedy. The Hawks doubled down on their efforts to get the ball in the net, but a shot by graduate student midfielder Leigh James around 20 seconds later ultimately went wide.
The Cavaliers were finally able to capitalize upon their offensive momentum shortly after, with a penalty corner taken by sophomore midfielder Daniela Mendez-Trendler. Mendez-Trendler passed the ball to junior defender Emily Field, who sent it over to junior midfielder Noa Boterman. Boterman then passed it back to Mendez-Trendler, who was able to get the ball into the back of the net, ultimately scoring off her own penalty shot in her eighth goal of the season. The first quarter was called with a 1-0 lead for Virginia.
The second quarter was very evenly matched between the two teams, with Saint Joseph’s picking up its offensive momentum from the very start of the quarter. The 17th minute of play saw four consecutive shots on goal by the Hawks from Santi, Smits and freshman defender Annabel Lindemulder off three separate penalty corners by junior midfielder Sol Borensztein. However, the Cavaliers shone defensively here, with Kennedy saving the first shot and Virginia blocking the next three. The quarter ended with the score remaining at 1-0.
The third quarter kicked off with aggressive offensive play from the Cavaliers, taking control of the first 10 minutes. The first shot of the quarter came in the 38th minute by freshman striker Minnie Pollock, but was saved by Saint Joseph’s graduate student goalkeeper Janelle Ward. The second shot came in the 41st minute off a penalty corner by Hengerer. Hengerer made a long pass to Field, who passed the ball to Croon. Croon then swept the ball into the net for her third goal of the season, bringing the score to 2-0 for Virginia.
The Hawks retaliated in the back half of the quarter, with a penalty corner by Santi in the 42nd minute resulting in a shot on goal by senior forward Manu Ghigliotti that was saved by Kennedy. However, five seconds later, Ghigliotti took another shot that was able to sneak past Kennedy to score a goal for the Hawks. The third quarter ended with a score of 2-1 for Virginia.
The fourth quarter again saw the Hawks double down offensively, with all offensive attacks in the quarter coming from Saint Joseph's. However, they were unable to capitalize off a penalty corner in the 51st minute, and the three subsequent shots were saved by Kennedy and blocked by Virginia. An empty net in the 55th minute to apply more offensive pressure also fell short to Virginia's defense, and the fourth quarter ended with no goals from either team. The whistle sounded for Virginia to emerge victorious over the Hawks with a final score of 2-1 and progress to the quarterfinals.
Quarterfinals — Virginia 4, Maryland 0
The first quarter kicked off with tough offensive play from the Terrapins, who dominated offensively for the first five minutes of the quarter, taking three shots off three penalty corners by graduate student forward Margot Lawn in just the first two minutes. However, none of these shots were successful — the first was blocked by Virginia, the second was saved by Boterman and the third went wide. A shot by junior forward Hope Rose in the fifth minute also went wide.
These first five minutes, however, were the extent of Maryland’s offensive control. The Cavaliers gained control after the fifth minute and did not relent for most of the game. In the 10th minute, a penalty corner by Mendez-Trendler resulted in a shot by sophomore midfielder Lauren Kenah, but was saved by Maryland freshman goalkeeper Alyssa Klebasko. However, Mendez-Trendler took the rebound from this save and shot it into the net, bringing the Cavaliers ahead with her ninth goal of the season. The first quarter ended with a score of 1-0 for Virginia.
The second quarter was dominated by the Cavaliers, getting off to a hot start with three shots taken in just the first three minutes of play. Virginia’s second goal came off a penalty corner by sophomore midfielder Madison Orsi. Orsi passed the ball to Field, who sent it to Boterman. Boterman then passed the ball back to Orsi, who shot the ball into the net for the first goal of her career, bringing the score to 2-0 for the Cavaliers. The second quarter was called with Virginia decisively in the lead.
The third quarter saw Virginia continue to dominate offensively, with a goal by Pollock coming in the 37th minute of play. Pollock stole the ball from Maryland and took a backhand shot to bring the Cavaliers to a 3-0 lead against the Terrapins in her fourth goal of the season. The third quarter was called with this score.
The fourth quarter played out in much the same way, with Virginia’s fourth goal coming from graduate student midfielder Adele Iacobucci in the 49th minute of play for her fourth goal of the season. The goal came off a shot by Pollock that was saved by Klebasko, after which Iacobucci gained possession of the rebound and shot the ball into the net. The next few minutes saw the Terrapins try to ramp up their offensive pressure, but they were ultimately unsuccessful as Virginia went on to dominate the back half of the quarter, too.
The match ended with an upset Virginia win, taking an impressive 4-0 victory against the No. 4 team in the country and dominating the Terrapins from start to finish on their home field.
The Cavaliers now look to keep this momentum going as they face No. 1 North Carolina in the NCAA semifinals this Friday at Chapel Hill, N.C. Kickoff is set for noon.
This is anticipated to be a tough matchup, as the 10-time NCAA champions have a long history of quelling the Cavaliers’ National Championship ambitions and recently put an end to Virginia’s ACC Championship run in the semifinals. A key to victory will be commanding possession and attacking early. In both the regular season victory and ACC tournament defeat, Virginia has played from behind and needed late rallies to contend with North Carolina. Flipping the script and applying steady pressure from the jump could make all the difference in round three.
If this weekend’s dominant showing is any indication, the Cavaliers are primed to put an end to their postseason woes. They have risen to the challenge of losing Coach Michele Madison right before postseason play remarkably well and are in as good shape as ever as they seek to advance to the championship match.