The start of the 2024 Virginia women’s lacrosse season is upon us, and the No. 16 Cavaliers are looking to improve on a disappointing 2023 season in which they lost in the ACC Tournament quarterfinals and the first round of the NCAA Tournament. With continued high expectations and new coaching, Virginia will hope to finish stronger than last year.
A stronger finish, however, will be a tough task for the Cavaliers, who are competing in an always-difficult ACC that has seven teams ranked inside the top 25 in the preseason poll, including Virginia itself. The gauntlet of ACC play this season will no doubt be a robust challenge for the Cavaliers, who will have to navigate personnel losses and a trying schedule to find glory in May.
Changes in Leadership
Longtime coach Julie Myers resigned at the end of the 2023 season, ending a 28-year term at the helm of the Cavaliers’ women's lacrosse program. Myers was an extremely decorated leader, bringing Virginia to the NCAA Tournament in every full season of her career. But, according to Virginia Director of Athletics Carla Williams, Myers wasn’t just a coach — she was profoundly influential in shaping the women’s lacrosse program into what it is today.
“Julie Myers has established an amazing legacy at the University and her name is synonymous with U.Va. women’s lacrosse,”Williams said. “Her contributions to the University and the sport, as a student-athlete, assistant coach and head coach are enormous.”
Stepping into Myers’ shoes will be Coach Sonia LaMonica, the former Towson coach who led the Tigers to a 139-91 record during her tenure. LaMonica was also a player for the Australian National Team and played college lacrosse at Maryland.
With a preseason top-20 national ranking comes the expectation that LaMonica will craft this young team into a fighting force in the ACC and a national title contender in the spring.
Players to Watch
On the goal-scoring side, 2023 All-ACC attacker Ashley McGovern exhausted her eligibility. The Cavaliers also lost 2023 All-ACC attacker Rachel Clark in a transfer to Boston College. The Cavaliers are sure to miss McGovern and Clark’s scoring prowess, as the duo combined for 124 goals last season.
In the 2024 season, Virginia will need to lean on senior attacker Morgan Schwab and junior attacker Kate Miller, who each started all 18 of the Cavaliers’ games last season. Schwab picked up 69 points last season to finish second on the team — only behind the departing Clark — while Miller racked up the second most assists with 26.
Rounding off the attacking depth will be graduate attacker Katia Carnevale — a transfer from Lehigh where she led the Mountain Hawks with 53 goals — and freshman attacker Madison Alaimo, who was ranked as the No. 24 recruit nationally in this past recruiting class by Inside Lacrosse.
In the midfield, senior midfielder Mackenzie Hoeg will be a crucial player for Virginia’s success. Hoeg tallied 40 goals last season and led the team in ground balls with 27, making her presence in the midfield the key for Virginia this season. Right beside Hoeg is graduate midfielder and team co-captain Kiki Shaw, who started 16 games last season. Experience in the midfield will allow for newer players to get into their groove early in the season.
Shoring up the defense is the senior defender tandem of Devon Whitaker and Maggie Bostain, a duo that started 17 of 18 games together for the Cavaliers last season. Whitaker was third on the team in draws controlled with 39, while Bostain led the team with 18 caused turnovers. A solid pairing at the back will be critical for Virginia after all of the lost firepower in the attack.
There will also be a fresh face making appearances in the backline, as the Cavaliers were able to land freshman defender and No. 25 ranked player Alexandra Schneider. Her skills paired with Whitaker and Bostain’s experience should help Virginia keep other teams quiet this season.
Finally, the goaltenders for this season also bring experience. Graduate goalkeeper Ashley Vernon and junior goalkeeper Abby Jansen split time between the sticks in 2023 and both bring a high shot-stopping level to the field. Fans can expect the pair to share goaltending duties yet again in 2024.
The road to an ACC title and NCAA Tournament appearance won’t be easy for Virginia. The 16-game season starts with a road trip to Liberty Feb. 9, and two days later, Stanford will come to Charlottesville for an early season clash. The Cardinals achieved a respectable 10-8 record last season, so this matchup should be a good test of strength for the Cavaliers.
The first ACC game will be Feb. 23 at home against No. 3 North Carolina, whom Virginia fell to 17-12 last season. Getting a result against the Tar Heels will be important in the quest for a higher ACC Tournament seed and an NCAA Tournament run.
The Cavaliers’ first road trip in the ACC will be March 2 against No. 23 Clemson. The Tigers have a difficult atmosphere to play in and represent yet another top-25 opponent with which Virginia will battle. But the Cavaliers won handily last season, so confidence will be high.
The last two games of the regular season may just be Virginia’s most important ones. The Cavaliers have a home clash with No. 2 Boston College April 13 followed by the Commonwealth Clash against Virginia Tech in Blacksburg just four days later. The ACC and NCAA Tournaments will be looming by then, and Virginia will likely need a pair of wins to set themselves up for success in the postseason.
All in all, despite a tough schedule, new faces and new leadership, the Cavaliers can lean on their veteran players to guide them through a gauntlet of a schedule. As LaMonica settles in and Virginia’s top new recruits find their groove, the Cavaliers will have all the tools to make a deep run in May.