May 12, 2013

Virginia Peaking at Right Time, Knocks Off Hoyas

by Clare Lochary | | Twitter | Live Blog Replay

Kim Kolarik made nine saves as Virginia led for much of Sunday's second-round game against sixth-seeded Georgetown.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Virginia was one of the last schools in the NCAA 2013 Division I women's lacrosse tournament. The Cavaliers squeaked into the 26-team field with a humble 9-9 record.

Now Virginia is headed to the quarterfinals, after a 10-8 upset over sixth-seeded Georgetown on Sunday afternoon. Virginia rode a strong first half and a nine-save performance from senior goalie Kim Kolarik to victory, and the first true upset of the tournament. Senior attacker Caroline McTiernan led the Cavaliers with three goals.

"I've never been past the second round in four years, so I think our team played great, hit our shots when we needed to and the defense really had their matchups," McTiernan said. "We are definitely peaking at a good time."

Georgetown struck first, on a goal from Kelyn Freedman. But the Cavaliers' strong transition play allowed them to dominate possession and go on a four-goal run capped by a free position by sophomore attacker Casey Bocklet (two goals, one assist) at 23:20. Virginia never trailed after that, thanks to Kolarik and smart slides by the Cavaliers defense. Virginia led 6-2 at the break.

The Hoyas were without senior midfielder Sophia Thomas, a key player in Georgetown's draw game and attack. Thomas was benched for an undisclosed violation of team rules, in what would have been her final game in blue and grey. Junior attacker Reilly Woodman started in Thomas' place and contributed three draw controls and one assist. But while the draw statistics came out even (10 of 20 for each team), the Hoyas struggled to hold onto the ball and capitalize on their possessions.

Virginia senior defender Morgan Stephens had a standout game with two draw controls, three ground balls and four caused turnovers. Sophomore midfielder Courtney Swan led all players with four draw controls.

"Courtney was getting a lot of them to herself but if not, she was pushing it to the circle or even to the 30s," Stephens said. "We practice getting down on the ground balls and being scrappy and hustling, and I feel like today that's what we did a good job on."

Georgetown mounted a late comeback, scoring the final four goals of the game to cut Virginia's lead to 10-8 with 4:05 on the clock.

"We went to possess the ball a little more and that got us off our rhythm, gave Georgetown a little window but in the end we were able to make just enough stops and come up with a huge win," Virginia coach Julie Myers said.

The Hoyas won the final draw, but Kolarik made a big save on a free position by Caroline Tarzian (two goals, one assist) to stop the Georgetown onslaught.

"We know that they like their outside shots, so we knew if we could push them just a little farther outside their comfort zone, we'd be able to come up with the saves and the stops that we needed," Kolarik said.

Virginia's quarterfinal game against North Carolina will be a rematch of a March 9 game that the Cavaliers lost, 8-7. Virginia had possession in the final minute but committed a turnover and never had a chance to force overtime. It was the Cavaliers' fourth consecutive loss, three of which were one-goal games against top 10 teams, and it dropped their record to a dismal 2-4. Sophomore attacker Liza Blue had mononucleosis, which kept her out of seven games. Sophomore defender Kelsey Gahan was out with a dislocated knee. It was the low point of their season. May, and the NCAA tournament, seemed very far away.

Now Blue is healthy — she had one goal and one assist Sunday — and Gahan has returned, just in time for the postseason. The Cavaliers doubled up on Penn in the first round of the NCAA tournament, winning 12-6, and held on against the Hoyas to advance to the quarterfinal round. Their reward is another shot at the Tar Heels, and a chance at their first semifinal berth since 2007.

"Virginia's definitely peaking at the right time this year," Kolarik said. "We had rocky games at the beginning of the season. We lost games by one goal that we should have won. And just coming and peaking right now during NCAAs, that's all I can hope for. We have the strength, we have the strategy, we have the players to make it all the way."

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