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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. The 11th-ranked Virginia field hockey team commences the 2008 season at 2 p.m. Friday, playing host to in-state rival William & Mary. The Cavaliers then return to the University Hall Turf Field to battle Providence at 3:30 p.m. Sunday. All UVa field hockey games are free admission.

Head coach Michele Madison returns to the helm of the program for her third year, after leading Virginia to back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances in her first two seasons. Madison welcomes back 12 letterwinners from last season, including All-American Inge Kaars Sijpesteijn, All-Region performer Traci Ragukas and 2007 National All-Rookie squad member Shelly Edmonds. Madison and her staff also welcome eight newcomers, including United States junior national team members Paige Selenski and Michelle Vittese.

“I am excited to get the seasons started,” Madison said. “We have been through nine months of hard work for three months of performances. After playing 25 sessions against each other in preseason, we are looking forward to playing against an opponent not in Orange or Blue.”

Virginia, who ended the 2007 campaign ranked 18th in the final poll, open this season with a No. 11 ranking in the STX/NFHCA preseason poll, released Tuesday.

William & Mary, who finished with a 9-10 record last season, returns 15 letterwinners, including six starters. In 2007, Virginia defeated the Tribe 2-1 at the Turf Field, led by two goals from then-junior Lucy Meyers. Meyers was named the national player of the week for her efforts.

The Cavalier-Tribe matchup continues as one of the longest running rivalries in the south. William & Mary began its field hockey program way back in 1925; Virginia added the sport as its first female varsity program in 1973. UVa is 21-14-2 all-time against William & Mary.

Providence, meanwhile, went 14-8 a year ago and returns 17 letterwinners. The Cavaliers are 2-0 all-time against the Friars. The last meeting between the two teams was in Providence back in 1992, a 2-1 UVa win in two extra time sessions.

“William and Mary and Providence will challenge us with two different styles of play and we will fight back with ours,” Madison continued. “The first game is a test of wills and opportunity. I imagine there will be mistakes both sides of the ball and the team that takes advantage of those mistakes will win.”

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