Cavaliers Down Blue Devils to Advance to the Semifinals

April 25, 2013

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. ( – North Carolina’s lacrosse teams call Fetzer Field home, but the Virginia women turned the venue into their own Blue Heaven on Thursday afternoon.

With the Cavaliers’ NCAA hopes hanging in the balance in the quarterfinal round of the 2013 ACC Women’s Lacrosse Championship, sophomore Liza Blue delivered a career-high four goals to lead her fifth-seeded team to a 10-7 win over fourth-seeded Duke.

Blue’s scoring outburst came on a day Virginia, now 9-8 overall, faced a possible end to its season.  A non-losing record is a requirement for inclusion in the NCAA Tournament, and the Cavaliers would not have qualified had Thursday’s outcome gone the other way.

“It’s definitely exciting for us,” said senior defender Megan Dunleavy, who helped key Virginia to a 13-6 advantage in draw controls and an 18-15 edge in ground balls. “Going into the game, we knew that our backs were kind of against the wall. We knew we had to get over .500 to make it into the postseason.”

Duke (11-5) lost in the quarterfinal round of the ACC Championship for the first time in four appearances. It marked just the second time in nine quarterfinal round games that the No. 5 seed defeated the No. 4 seed.

Virginia led for the final 46 minutes of Thursday’s match.  After building a three-goal halftime lead, the Cavaliers answered each time the seventh-ranked Blue Devils attempted to mount a comeback in the final 30 minutes.

“I couldn’t be more proud of our team today,” said Virginia coach Julie Myers, whose team has earned an NCAA bid in each of her previous seasons as head coach. “Everybody came with their best game. I thought we were great on draw controls, on ground balls and on making Duke play some really tough defense. And on our end of the field, our defense was really stingy. Overall, I thought it was one of our top performances from top to bottom.”

Duke coach Kerstin Kimel, whose team scored a 13-7 win over the Cavaliers in the regular-season meeting March 23, echoed Myers’ assessment.

“I’ve seen Virginia play a lot over the course of the season, and I would argue that this is probably the best game they have played this season,” Kimel said. “From front to back, their offense gave them really good production, and their defense was super aggressive.”

Blue, who missed the first seven games of the season due to illness, entered Thursday game with four goals in nine games played. The Butler, Md., native credited the production in part to an offensive adjustment that placed her primarily in her accustomed role of attacker as opposed to midfield.

“I like midfield, but I played attacker all of last year, and I just felt more in my comfort zone,” Blue said.

Blue and fellow sophomore Casey Bocklet each had hat tricks by the 11:33 mark of the first half as Virginia charged to an early 6-2 lead. It marked Bocklet’s sixth hat trick of the season.

The half ended with the Cavaliers in front, 6-3. Senior Makenzie Hommel led Duke offensively in the first half with a pair of goals, which came 46 seconds apart in the early going and allowed the Blue Devils to briefly tie the score at 2-all before Blue and Bocklet combined on a 4-0 Virginia run. Bocklet assisted on one of Blue’s first-half goals to lead Virginia’s first-half scoring with four points.

Duke’s Kelci Smesko slammed home the first of her three second-half goals just 13 seconds into the second half, trimming Virginia’s lead to 6-4. But Cavalier sophomore Courtney Swan responded with a running goal of her own just 10 seconds later. The Blue Devils would close within two goals twice more in the second half, but each time Virginia countered.

“I thought Courtney Swan’s answer back was the perfect way of saying, ‘Not today. Not now,” Myers said. “We needed a big player to make a big play, and she did just that.”

Duke’s comeback effort was further thwarted by Virginia goalkeeper Kim Kolarik, who made five of her six saves in the second half.

While breathing easier about their NCAA Tournament chances, the Cavaliers will turn their immediate focus to Friday’s 1 p.m. game against top-seeded and top-ranked Maryland. The Terps (17-0) won the regular season meeting in Charlottesville by an 18-10 score on March 1.

“Tough, but exciting,” Myers said. “I’ll take it. We’re still playing.”