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Feb. 19, 2007

The Virginia women’s lacrosse team will open up its 32nd season of competition on Wednesday against in-state and conference rival Virginia Tech at University Hall Turf Field. The opening draw will take place at 7 p.m.

The reigning ACC Champion welcome back one of the most explosive offenses in the nation combined with an experience defense to defends its league title. Toss in the top-ranked recruiting class in the nation and the finest collegiate lacrosse stadium in the country and there is every indication that the `Hoos will once again be one of the top teams this season. Four members of the US National team return for the Cavaliers to provide Virginia a solid nucleus as the `Hoos look to integrate the most exciting rookie class in the nation.

Fourth-year captain Jessy Morgan and second-year Jen Holden, both members of the US National squad, return to anchor the defense after earning All-State honors in 2006. Claire Bordley, who helped the USA win the Under-19 World Championship, also returns after starting the final 15 games in 2006, giving the squad a solid core in the backfield. This trio teamed up to help the Cavaliers ranked third nationally in scoring defense in 2006, and that veteran leadership will be key as Virginia continues to rank among the nation’s best defensively.

Catherine Chambers, Alice Hughey and Sarah Hackman all played last year and will help bolster the Virginia defensive corps, as will Katie Shannon, who has moved into the defensive unit after seeing time in the attack in 2006. The Cavaliers also welcome high school All-American Allo Perry as well as Katelyn Strasdauskas into the defense.

This vaunted Virginia defense will play in front of a solid group of keepers, led by third-year Kendall McBrearty, who has seen time for the Cavaliers in the cage. Her experience will help make the transition to a new keeper easier for Virginia, and she will be called upon to help mentor second-year Sara Hairfield and first-year Lauren Benner.

Captain Jess Wasilewski, who started every game last year and has played in all but one game in her Virginia career, anchors a young but talented midfield. Megan O’Malley, fresh off her first year with the US National squad, joins Wasilewski in the midfield The Cavaliers have been among the national leaders in draw controls over the last couple years, and The first-year class of midfielders include high school All-Americans Kaitlin Duff and Brittany Kalkstein as well as Yeardley Love.

National rookie of the year and All-ACC honoree Blair Weymouth is back for her second season, and this explosive second-year leads one of the most talented attacks in the nation. Joining Weymouth is All-ACC Tournament honoree Kate Breslin as well as host of talented attackers who have helped Virginia rank among the national leaders in scoring offense year-in and year-out. Weymouth and Breslin both saw extensive time in 2006, and that experience together will help gel an attack unit that can create havoc on opponents’ defenses. A pair of second-years, Whitaker Hagerman and Ashley McCulloch, are also back after a strong rookie seasons. Hagerman played in all 19 games, starting 14 of them, while McCulloch started in the season opener and saw a host of playing time; these two will give Virginia impressive depth up front. Veterans Megan Havrilla and Kaitlin Swagart give the Cavaliers talented experience while first-years Caity Whiteley and Marye Kellerman give Virginia more of options in the offensive end of the field.

As usual, the Virginia schedule ranks as one of the toughest in the nation. Games against top-10 teams are plentiful, starting with the ACC where the Cavaliers will face rivals looking to knock the reigning ACC tournament champions from the top as Duke, UNC and Maryland are all ranked in the top-10 nationally. In-state rivals include top-20 opponents Richmond and James Madison, while traditional rivals William & Mary, Old Dominion and George Mason are dangerous foes. Perennial champions Princeton return to Charlottesville, continuing one of the most exciting rivalries in collegiate lacrosse, and nationally-ranked Georgetown and Penn State will also make the trek to Charlottesville. Virginia’s road schedule is equally tough as the Cavaliers will face top-20 rivals Syracuse, Temple, and, for the first time in the regular season, Johns Hopkins.

The Cavaliers have firmly established themselves as one of the premier programs in the nation, and each year Virginia combines a talented roster with an impressive schedule to land a berth in the national championships. The invitation to the tournament is always a goal for the `Hoos, and 2007 will be no exception.

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