#LMRanks: No. 7 Virginia Cavaliers (WD1)
|Liza Blue is back after missing a chunk of 2013 with mono, and could be a big factor for the Cavaliers. (Matt Riley)|
2013 Record: 11-10 (1-4 ACC)
Coach: Julie Myers (19th year)
Record at Virginia: 256-101
Draw Control: 4
M Morgan Stephens (Jr.)
The Cavaliers' strongest and fastest middie, Stephens is a well-rounded player with a combination of skills that help set the tone for the rest of the team. Though she moved to defense last year to fill a hole created by injuries, she's most dangerous in the midfield and will be a key player there this season as several young players step into those positions.
A Liza Blue (Sr.)
Blue missed eight games in 2013 because of mono, but returned just in time to help Virginia make a late-season push. While defenders keyed in on attackers like Ashlee Warner, Casey Bocklet and Courtney Swan, Blue came up with several big plays, finishing with 16 goals and 1 assist in 13 games.
"Liza can be really sneaky, really quiet and then all of a sudden have four or five goals," Myers said. "She's a really efficient player. The defenders that guard her probably don't think they run that much, but yet she finds herself with the ball and can do some damage."
NCAA Tournament Trend
2009 - First round
2010 - Second round
2011 - First round
2012 - Second round
2013 - Quarterfinals
Virginia's freshmen class of seven is considered among the nation's best groups of first-year players this season, earning a No. 3 ranking by Inside Lacrosse. McDonogh (Md.) grads Maggie Preas and Posey Valis especially should factor in right away, and Besser Dyson was the publication's No. 13 prospect after recording 141 assists and 47 goals at St. Stephens & St. Agnes (Va.).
The number of games Virginia played last year that were decided by a one-goal margin, and the Cavaliers lost four of them.
Opposing coaches thoughts on Virginia
"Core group from 2013 season returns to face a stronger ACC Conference in 2014."
"With another big recruiting class, Virginia should be able to compete for an ACC championship."
"Good returning talent and a solid incoming class could be the right formula to return Virginia to the national championship conversation. Unfortunately, they may not even be on top of the best conference in America. How will that affect their psyche?"
"Coming off of one of the best seasons they have had in a few years, the Cavaliers will use that to push them even further this season."
"Edged Duke in the ACC tournament and edged out Georgetown in the second round of NCAAs. This team came on strong when it mattered most. I expect them to come out hard this upcoming season."
"Had a strong finish in 2013, we'll see if that powers them to a better start in 2014."
"They came on well at the end of the year last year."
"Every year they bring in some of the top recruits, and every year they are on the bubble being barely .500. I don't expect much to change."
"Experienced, fast and skilled, and ready to combine it."
"Strong finish last year, and a lot of returners."
"Morgan Stevens is one of the best players in the country. She will carry this team to new heights."
"Virginia is stacked with some of the best young talent in the game. Bocklet was transformational for UVA last year and has infused a more dynamic style into their attack. If they can stay healthy and keep players on the field they are always going to cause some upsets. The goalkeeper position and UVA's defense will be where the biggest holes will be."
In a Nutshell: The Cavaliers finished just 11-10 but played one of the most challenging schedules with 14 of 21 games against top-20 opponents. Led by third-team All-American attacker Casey Bocklet, the team rattled off four victories in the final six games, including upsets of No. 7 Duke and No. 6 Georgetown, to advance to the NCAA quarterfinals.
High Point: Entering the ACC tournament with an 8-8 record, Virginia had to win at least one more game to be considered for the NCAA tournament. The Cavaliers avenged a regular-season loss to Duke, beating the Blue Devils 10-7 in the first round to extend their season. Though they lost in the ACC semifinals, they qualified for NCAAs and won two more games.
Low Point: Virginia lost four straight games to ranked opponents during the first half of the season, but the real low point came with a 9-8 upset loss to Johns Hopkins on April 11. It left them at 7-8 going into the final regular season game and put them in peril of missing the NCAA tournament for the first time in Myers' 18 seasons as head coach.
Best Case: The dramatic changes to an up-tempo style pay off and Virginia starts looking like a team that can contend for a national title. A championship likely won't come right away, but the Cavaliers at least begin winning some of the big games that slipped away in the past – and if it really goes well, takes them to their first Final Four since 2007.
Worst Case: The Cavaliers face more ups and downs during the adjustment period, as the young midfield struggles to keep up, and they find themselves in a similar situation to last year where their postseason was in jeopardy. As always, they still pull it off in the end, but make an early exit in the NCAA tournament.
Self-Examination— Julie Myers on...
Morgan Stephens: "She's one of the fastest kids and strongest kids. Some kids might be really fast but not very strong, and others are really strong but not very quick. To be able to combine those, I don't think every team has an answer for that. I think Morgan really puts her power, agility, strength and speed together, and she has really soft hands too. She's just a strange combination of all great things."
Casey Bocklet: "She's a really smart, very efficient lacrosse player. She sees the pass, she sees the catch, she sees the opportunity to get her hands free, and when her hands are free, she's got great accuracy with her shot. I think she's the epitome of a lacrosse player. She's just a lacrosse rat and it comes out in her lacrosse IQ."
Courtney Swan: "She does a great job with draws. She could probably be a middie for us, but we don't want to take her off the field or off the draw because she wins so many possessions for us. She's also really gritty getting the ball back so if we were to turn the ball over or miss a shot, she's one of the first attackers to hunt the ball back, and I think that's going to be really important this year. She's just a really great athlete."