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Team captains Caroline McTiernan and Megan Dunleavy chatted with VirginiaSports.com after practice on Tuesday, Jan. 29 about preparations for the coming season.
What have been the biggest improvements from fall ball to the beginning of the season?
McTiernan: On attack, we've been learning new patterns and really getting them down. We've been finding new people and niches to work with and working off one another. I think that our patterns have really improved and now we're going to move on to working on our plays, which is always an exciting part of the game. There is always room to improve but we've been working hard.
Dunleavy: Defensively, we're a lot more cohesive than we were in the fall. We've added three new first year defenders, so we've been working with the people ewe had last year and this year. We've gotten better at talking, sliding, and working on man-down. Having more of a cohesive year will definitely help us a lot.
Was it difficult to get back into the swing of things after break?
McTiernan: I was actually in a boot for the first three days of practice since I'd hurt my foot over break. To be honest, I think it was harder to watch my team go through what they did. I give them all the credit in the world for getting through it. The first day, they had to run up a hill that was the hardest thing we'd ever done in the Fall. So watching everyone give it their all and really push through was amazing. Coming back a couple days early to really work hard and get that much more in shape is really going to help us in the end of the season.
Dunleavy: Coming back we had a meeting where they told us we were going to have the first three days be conditioning. We were all a little taken aback. In my whole UVa career, we've never had that many full conditioning days to start. It really set the tone that we're going to be going hard for the first three days and the rest of the season going forward.
What was it like going through the conditioning?
I made it out alive, to say the least. Everyone was really tired, but being able to push through that mental and physical state was big for us. We're usually good at getting through the physical challenges, but it was a big mental breakthrough for us.
Did you get to do anything fun during those days?
McTiernan: The first night, we went to Guadalajara as a team for dinner. But the best part...
Dunleavy: But the best part was Friday morning when we played box lacrosse up at Slaughter Gym. We came back and they told us we were gong to go on a road run. All of our legs were about to fall off and were all looking at each other near tears. Julie Meyers tells us the road run, which was about three plus miles, which is a pretty long run after already playing. So we're going up past the Villa, and we see Julie waving us in for pancakes. I don't think I've seen Taylor Ranftle smile that big the entire fall and preseason. We've never done that in the four years we've been here, so it was epic.
What are you doing to lead the team as captains?
McTiernan: I think that we're both trying to be a big voice to our team. I'm on attack and Megan's on defense, so we both try to lead out there as much as possible. I know that when I was a first year the fourth year girls helped me a lot with my confidence on the field. We want to be that voice for the younger girls and to try and keep our team confident, consistent, and to get some wins.
Dunleavy: It's important to keep the team positive. We're out on the field six days out of seven, so keeping everyone's spirits up and working hard is important. We're working towards the same goal to get wins and go further in the season together.
Has the cold weather been a challenge?
McTiernan: I'm from New York and so I figured that coming to school in Virginia it'd be a little warmer. It was brutal this January. I had gloves, three pairs of Under Armour on, long sleeve shirts, sweatshirts, and sweatpants. I've never felt so slow in my life. But to be honest, it just shows how mentally tough we are. As much as it was cold and it wasn't the weather that we wanted, we looked good in those days. Everyone rose to the challenge and really gave it their all.
Dunleavy: Even when there was snow on the turf, we went out there and Julie Meyers told us it was going to be a running practice. She said, "Activate Plan B! It's going to be a running practice, ladies. Start warming up!" Our faces dropped, and it was pretty bad. It was quick and then it was over.
McTiernan: It was one of those things that as it's going on you're not sure if you're going to make it out, but afterwards you feel so accomplished. We can really push through the weather and the fatigue; we can handle it.
Has the recent warm weather brightened the spirits?
McTiernan: It's that much more enjoyable to play and fewer complaints come out of people when it's warm. Weather definitely affects your mood. We've all been really exited to come out and play in the warm weather, but that's not to say that we aren't excited to come out and play in the cold.
How much are you looking forward to your first game?
Dunleavy: We're definitely excited to stop playing the same people. I look forward to not going one-on-one with Caroline over and over again. It will be fun to go against different players and see different motions and plays. Defensively speaking, it's also exciting to see how well we can do against other people and plays.
McTiernan: It'll be really exciting and fun to play against other teams. We played a scrimmage the other day and it's fun to scrimmage. It's nice to be able to score on another team and to play with your defense behind you rather than against them. I'm looking forward to playing as a whole team rather than as the attack versus the defense.