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'Hoos Look to Bolster NCAA Résumé

Jocelyn Willoughby
Jocelyn Willoughby

March 1, 2018

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CHARLOTTESVILLE -- Are they in? Are they out?

At this point, nobody knows for sure. The Virginia Cavaliers learned last season that nothing is certain, no matter what bracketologists might say, until the field for the NCAA women's basketball tournament is announced.

The Wahoos, who had to settle for a trip to the WNIT last year, are again in the mix for an NCAA tourney invitation, which would be their first in Joanne Boyle's seven seasons as their head coach. But Boyle wants her players to concern themselves with UVA's next opponent and not what the NCAA selection committee will do.

"What I tell the kids is, stay focused on what you can control," Boyle said. "I think we're much better when we look at what we can control. The more we can keep them in the moment, the better."

The No. 7 seed in the ACC tournament, which started Wednesday at the Greensboro (N.C.) Coliseum, UVA can bolster its résumé with a win Thursday. At 6 p.m., Virginia (17-12) meets Georgia Tech (18-12) in the second round.

When the teams met in Atlanta during the regular season, UVA prevailed 62-56, but the Yellow Jackets come into the rematch having won five of their past seven games.



Four days after Miami defeated Virginia 77-62 at John Paul Jones Arena, Georgia Tech handled the Hurricanes 70-51 in Atlanta.

"They're always a tough team," Boyle said of the Jackets, who ousted Clemson from the ACC tourney Wednesday.

In the NCAA's latest RPI rankings, the 'Hoos are No. 35, and they've played one of the toughest schedules of any Division I team. In both categories, the Cavaliers are ahead of where they were at this time last season.

"I feel like we've done our due diligence," Boyle said, "but the only thing you can control is the game in front of you."

The Cavaliers headed into their regular-season finale on a three-game losing streak, and at halftime Sunday they trailed Wake Forest 22-15 at Lawrence Joel Coliseum in Winston-Salem, N.C. But Virginia dominated the second half and won 48-41.

Sophomores Dominique Toussaint and Jocelyn Willoughby combined for 31 points to lead the 'Hoos.

"We played some ugly basketball Sunday," Boyle said, "but we never quit and we were resilient and we found a way."

Virginia shot only 35.6 percent from the floor against Wake, continuing a recent trend. Only once in its past seven games has UVA made at least 40 percent of its field-goal attempts.

"We've just got to keep emphasizing the things we know we can do well: defense, rebounding and effort," Boyle said. "We've been solid there, and when we haven't been, that's when we've [stumbled]."

The UVA-Georgia Tech winner will advance to meet No. 2 seed Notre Dame in the ACC quarterfinals, Friday at 6 p.m.

Thursday night's game starts a busy stretch for UVA Athletics. Among the teams competing this weekend:

WOMEN'S LACROSSE: After defeating William & Mary 16-5 in Charlottesville on Wednesday night, UVA is 4-0 for the first time since 2009.

A major challenge is next for head coach Julie Myers' team. At noon Sunday, No. 9 Virginia takes on No. 5 Syracuse (3-0) at Klöckner Stadium.

In men's lacrosse, fifth-ranked Virginia and No. 12 Syracuse will follow at 3 p.m. at Klöckner.

The UVA women lead the series 11-10 but have lost seven straight to Syracuse. The 'Hoos haven't beaten the Orange since 2012.

The Cavaliers' biggest strength this season is their midfield, which returned all three starters from 2017. Sophomore Sammy Mueller leads Virginia with 16 points (11 goals, five assists), and senior Kasey Behr (13 goals, one assist) and junior Maggie Jackson (eight goals, six assists) have 14 apiece.

Junior attack Avery Shoemaker (11 goals, three assists) also has 14 points for UVA, which is in its 23rd season under Myers, who has guided her alma mater to 22 straight appearances in the NCAA tournament.

WOMEN'S TENNIS: The Cavaliers (7-2) have won six straight dual matches, but stern tests await first-year head coach Sara O'Leary's team this weekend.

No. 24 Virginia opens its ACC schedule Friday afternoon against third-ranked Georgia Tech in Atlanta. UVA's first ACC home dual match is Sunday at noon against No. 2 Duke at the Snyder Tennis Center.

Among the Cavaliers' standouts this season have been sophomore Rosie Johanson and junior Meghan Kelley.

Johanson is 15-6 in singles, and Kelley is 12-5. As a doubles team, they're 21-2.

SOFTBALL: Virginia (6-10) will play four games this weekend at the District Classic, a tournament hosted by Georgetown in Washington, D.C.

UVA's first game, Saturday morning against Columbia (0-5), will match sisters Olivia and Madison Gott.

"Who's got game, right?" Virginia head coach Joanna Hardin said, laughing.

Olivia Gott is a junior catcher and designated player for the Cavaliers. Madison Gott, a senior, starts at shortstop for the Lions. Both graduated from Cypress Bay High School in Weston, Florida.

This will be the first time in memory, Olivia said, that the sisters have played against each other, and their parents will be there for the occasion.

Madison, who's hitting .250 this season, holds Columbia's record for career home runs. Olivia leads Virginia with a .378 batting average.

The third Gott sister, Sophia, is a freshman at Florida State, but doesn't play softball there.

If Olivia plays catcher Saturday, the sisters will be inches apart whenever Madison comes to the plate. When that happens? "Trust me, my dad's going to be right up against the fence, taking a picture," Olivia said, laughing.

Their father recently sent the sisters an email, Olivia said, to say how proud he is of them.

Madison is a role model for her, Olivia said, and it will be "a special game. But again, it's a business trip, per usual. We've got to win games."

The Cavaliers are scheduled to play twice on Saturday and twice on Sunday in Washington. They'll also tour the U.S. Capitol during their visit to D.C.


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A 1985 graduate of UVA, White worked at the Richmond Times-Dispatch until July 2009. He was honored six times as the state's Sportswriter of the Year.

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