April 11, 2014
CHARLOTTESVILLE -- With about five seconds left, senior goalie Liz Colgan made one final save Thursday night, sealing No. 16 Virginia's 16-14 upset of No. 6 Boston College in an ACC women's lacrosse game at Klöckner Stadium.
Moment later, the Cavaliers, at once happy and relieved, celebrated together on the field, and for good reason. Not only did the victory come on Senior Night for the Wahoos (8-6 overall, 2-3 ACC), it moved them closer to a 19th straight trip to the NCAA tournament.
"This is a huge win," junior midfielder Morgan Stephens said. "We kind of struggled a little bit at the beginning of the season and put ourselves in a bigger hole than we needed to."
To be eligible for an at-large invitation to the NCAA tournament, a team must have at least a .500 record. If the `Hoos can get to nine wins, they should be in. Virginia has two regular-season games left -- Sunday at No. 2 Maryland and Tuesday at Virginia Tech -- and then will play at least one in the ACC tourney.
A loss to BC (10-4, 2-4) would have put UVa in peril of missing the NCAA tournament for the first time in Julie Myers' 19 seasons as head coach at her alma mater. And so it's hard to overstate the importance of the Cavaliers' victory Thursday night.
"It's like the perfect storm, really," Myers said. "It's an ACC win [over a] top-5, 6 team, and it's a win that gets us closer to hitting that magic No. 9 to look toward a postseason bid. So we really needed to win tonight and to do it in the way that we did."
The `Hoos never trailed Thursday night, but the game was tight throughout the second half. After falling behind 7-2, the Eagles trimmed their deficit to a single goal by halftime, and they pulled to 7-7 about six minutes into the second half.
There would be three more ties, at 8-8, 10-10 and 12-12, and several times the momentum appeared to have shifted in BC's favor. Never, though, were the Eagles able to pull ahead, and that was crucial for UVa.
"I think that was huge," Myers said. "And even though they scored five in a row at one point, we made them hit the brakes right before they went ahead. It's a different game if they go up one at any point, I think they really take the air out of the ball, and then we become the frustrated team. So making those stops at key moments was pretty important."
Colgan, one of the eight seniors honored in a ceremony before the game, made six of her 10 saves in the second half. None was more important than the one she made with about 7:15 left and UVa leading 13-12.
The Cavaliers stretched their lead to 16-12 before BC rallied for two goals in the final 35 seconds.
The victory was the fourth in a row for the `Hoos and their second straight against a top-10 opponent. Virginia knocked off No. 9 Notre Dame 18-13 last weekend in South Bend, Ind.
"I think we're setting ourselves in a really good spot," junior midfielder Courtney Swan said.
Myers said: "We've changed the personnel a little bit, we've tightened things up in practice. We've really tried to hold them more accountable in practice, just doing it right and not cutting any corners. But really they've put extra time in too, our shooters and drawers, and we're reaping the benefits of it."
Swan and attacker Liza Blue were among the many Cavaliers who distinguished themselves in this pivotal game. Swan totaled four goals and two assists and had six draw controls.
"Some of those draws that she got clean resulted in our fast-break goals," Myers said. "She has a knack. But Courtney's one of the hardest-working kids, and so is Liza, so it's not shocking to see that they're the ones that make big plays down the stretch."
Blue totaled three goals, three assists and five draw controls.
"She's mature, she's clutch, she's smart," Myers said. "She's the real deal."
Another standout was Stephens, who had the unenviable assignment of marking BC star Covie Stanwick, a junior attacker whose brother Steele was an All-American for the UVa men's team.
"She was a great challenge," Stephens said.
Stanwick finished with three goals and three assists, but Stephens made her earn those points and kept her from taking over the game.
"I think Morgan did a nice job of frustrating her early," Myers said. "Covie's always going to hit her shots, and she's always going to be able to find some cutters, but I think she would have been even more dangerous if Morgan didn't do such a good job.
"Their whole attack runs through Covie, so if she's kind of feeling the heat or the pinch, or wants the ball more than she's getting it, that's a great defensive job."
Recognized in the Senior Night ceremony were Keeshan, Blue, Colgan, Lauren Goerz, Christie Donovan, Maddy Fabiani, Ashlee Warner and Dana Boyle. (Blue and Boyle are redshirt juniors, and Myers expects both to play for the Cavaliers next season.)
"It was very emotional, but we just really wanted to bring this one home for them," Swan said. "That's all we wanted to do, really, just commemorate their time here at UVa and what they've done for this program."
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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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