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'Hoos Head Into Postseason on High Note

Rachel Vander Kolk

April 22, 2017

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CHARLOTTESVILLE -- After an exhilarating stretch of five straight victories in March, the University of Virginia women's lacrosse team abruptly dropped three straight games in early April.

Head coach Julie Myers did not panic.

Those losses were to Boston College, Maryland and Penn State, teams ranked Nos. 18, 1 and 5, respectively, in the latest Intercollegiate Women's Lacrosse Coaches Association poll.

The Cavaliers would rather have won those games, of course, "but we knew we were getting better in the process of competing," Myers said. "We knew that we were playing against [elite] teams, which is going in turn help us become even better. So we weren't really too worried about it, but it is certainly nice to right that ship and get back on that winning path."

In their regular-season finale Saturday afternoon, the 14th-ranked Wahoos extended their winning streak to three games with a 6-5 victory over No. 19 Virginia Tech at Klöckner Stadium.

 

 

The win locked up the No. 3 seed in the ACC tournament for the Cavaliers. Virginia (10-7 overall, 4-3 conference) will face No. 6 seed Lousville (11-6, 3-4) around 8 p.m. Thursday in the last quarterfinal at Sports Backers Stadium in Richmond.

"It's nice that it's an easy bus ride to be able to navigate," Myers said.

Not since 2010 has UVA, which beat Louisville 11-7 last weekend in Charlottesville, been seeded this high in the ACC tourney.

"It speaks volumes about the hard work the girls have put in," Myers said.

Before the game Saturday, six Cavaliers were recognized in an emotional Senior Day ceremony: Besser Dyson, Maggie Preas, Kelly Reese, Katherine Rueger, Posey Valis and Wyatt Whitley. Myers came away from it unsure how that group would play in this Commonwealth Clash contest.

"I don't remember many fourth-year classes crying quite so much before the game," Myers said, smiling.

The `Hoos lead the series 22-1, but their fifth straight win over Virginia Tech (11-7, 2-5) did not come easily. On a rain-soaked field, the Cavaliers never trailed Saturday. They never led by more than two goals, however, and with 10 minutes remaining the game was tied.

A goal by Sammy Mueller put Virginia up 5-4 at the 9:42 mark, and then the freshman midfielder struck again to make it 6-4 with 8:01 remaining. The Hokies closed to 6-5 with 4:32 left but could get no closer.

"It was not a well-played game by any means," Myers said, "but we scored just enough to win the game, and it's a huge opportunity to move on."

The wet conditions wreaked havoc with each team's offense. The `Hoos finished with 24 turnovers and the Hokies with 21. The six goals were the fewest in a game this season for Virginia, which was 0 for 10 on free-position shots.

Even so, Myers said, this was "really kind of uncharacteristic how we've been playing and how we've been practicing, so I'm not too concerned."

The Cavaliers came in averaging 12.6 goals per game. Virginia's struggles at the offensive end Saturday put "a lot of pressure on the defense, and I think we really rose to the challenge," said junior goalkeeper Rachel Vander Kolk, who finished with 12 saves.

"We were able to make some stops when our offense really needed it. We can't score goals if we don't have the ball, so we just had to be able to give the offense the ball and give them enough opportunities to get enough goals."

Preas, an All-ACC defender, said the Cavaliers "knew that there were going to be some slips, some missed passes and some turnovers with it being so wet. But I thought we came out to play and did what we needed to do."

Now comes the postseason for Virginia, which is a virtual lock to advance to the NCAA tournament for the 22nd time in Myers' 22 seasons as head coach at her alma mater.

"I think we're in a good spot," she said.

Preas said: "We've worked on things on both ends and worked on coming together and being more cohesive as a team, which has definitely helped us in these last three games, and I think we're just hitting our stride going into the tournament, which is great."

For Preas and her classmates, their final regular-season home game was an occasion they won't soon forget.

"Coming out with a win any day is great," Preas said. "On Senior Day, ending at Klöckner with a win, it's twice as great."

Before the Cavaliers took on the Hokies, Myers reminded her players that this did not have to be their final home game of the season.

"We said, `If we take care of this game and then ACCs, we could very well be playing back playing in Klöckner [in the NCAA tournament],' " Myers said.

NOTE: At the ACC men's golf tournament, UVA finished ahead of Virginia Tech on Saturday evening. Coupled with the women's lacrosse result at Klöckner Stadium, that gives Virginia an 11-9 lead in the Virginia529 Commonwealth Clash.

Still to be decided are the points for men's outdoor track & field and women's outdoor track & field. For information, visit https://www.thecommonwealthclash.com.

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Jeff White

Director of News Content

jwhite@virginia.edu

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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