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Junior Liz Downs returns to Virginia’s women’s lacrosse team as the anchor of the defense. Downs earned All-South Region honors last season after collecting 25 ground balls, 14 draw controls and 14 caused turnovers. She will look to lead the squad this weekend when the Cavaliers host Loyola (Md.) in their season opener Saturday at the UHall Turf Field. Opening draw is slated for 1 p.m.

Question: How excited are you to open the season this weekend?
Downs: I can’t wait for our first game! After over a month of preseason I know that we are all ready to match up against an opponent other than our teammates.

Question: Games are typically played at Klöckner Stadium, which is a grass field. With the season opener changed to the UHall Turf Field, how does that change the game?
Downs: The turf field completely changes the game. It makes everything so much faster; the ball travels farther on the ground and people are much quicker.

Question: What has been the team’s biggest emphasis throughout the preseason?
Downs: I think that there has been a pretty even focus this preseason. Our team chemistry has definitely come more naturally, so we have been focusing more specifically on different attack patterns, styles of defense and clearing options.

Question: As a returning defender, what are your expectations for the defense this season?
Downs: I think that our defense on a whole is playing really well together so far. There is a really good balance in returning defenders and newer people, so the transition from last year hasn’t seemed too drastic. One of the most important things about defense is communication and trust and I feel that our defense is already demonstrating these qualities really early on.

Question: What about the attack? Playing against them in practice every day, how do you feel they’ll perform this year?
Downs: This year I think every attacker is going to contribute a lot. I think there are some unexpected people that are going to step up and contribute a lot this year. It’s been really fun playing against them because they are all very creative and dynamic players and definitely hard to stop.

Question: Is there an opponent you look forward to playing?
Downs: I think that I get most excited to play the ACC teams. I’ve played with a lot of the girls on other teams in the past, so it’s usually a friendly, but really competitive match-ups.

Question: Why do you wear the No. 7?
Downs: I chose it my freshman year because there were limited options. I like it though because it’s just an all-around great number. It’s not too high, not too low and it looks good on a jersey.

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