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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – In front of a record crowd of 2,270 supportive fans, the No. 4 Virginia women’s lacrosse team overcame a huge hurdle on Sunday afternoon, defeating No. 11 Towson, 14-12, at Klöckner Stadium in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

The win marks the first for the Cavaliers in the NCAA Tournament since 2007 and advances them to next weekend’s quarterfinal round.

“I thought our team did a great job today,” head coach Julie Myers said. “I think emotionally, we went out really strong, scoring three goals pretty quickly. Towson did a great job of coming right back at us. We knew Towson wasn’t going to have it be easy for us and I thought they did a phenomenal job.”

The Cavaliers got out to a hot start to open the game, with senior All-American Brittany Kalkstein winning the opening draw control and creating a fast break opportunity that saw redshirt senior Whitaker Hagerman dish a pass to sophomore Charlie Finnigan – who scored just 12 seconds into play, marking Virginia’s fastest start to goal all season.

Kalkstein then assisted senior All-American Kaitlin Duff at the 28:35 mark, before classmate Caity Whiteley made it 3-0 in favor of Virginia just 2:46 into play.

Towson answered with a three-goal spurt of its own in a span of 2:35, knotting the score at 3-3 with 21:47 on the clock.

Following a UVa timeout and a point-blank save by the Cavaliers’ goalkeeper – redshirt junior Lauren Benner – Virginia was able to break the stalemate with a goal from sophomore Julie Gardner at 18:49. Back-to-back scores from the Tigers, however, gave Towson its first lead of the game, 5-4, at 15:04.

The Cavaliers forced the game’s third tie score after Kalkstein fired a goal into the net at 12:44, and then regained a two-goal lead at 10:06 following scores from Gardner and Whiteley.

Towson snapped Virginia’s run at 5:38, before another score from each squad led the Cavaliers into halftime with a one-goal advantage, at 8-7.

Virginia got the scoring started in the second half with two-straight goals. The first came from freshman Kelly Austin and the second from Gardner, but a three-goal run from the Tigers knotted the score at 10 all, with 11:55 to play.

Duff broke the tie game by converting a free position shot at 10:13, and although Towson evened the score for a fifth time, Kalkstein provided her second goal of the day to push Virginia ahead by one, 12-11, with 8:26 left to play.

Whiteley, credited with the game-winning goal, completed her fourth hat trick of the season with 3:54 remaining. Towson added one final score at 3:09, before Finnigan, stumbling, slipped a shot into the net at 1:58 to close out the scoring.

“What I loved seeing was that our team went fast, they broke a little bit, then they came right back,” Myers said. “When we were up by three, and then instantly tied, our team did a nice job of staying a step ahead. I give them a lot of credit. I’m very proud of how they were able to play, especially under the circumstances that we have been in.”

Virginia’s seniors guided the way with Duff leading all players with five points on two goals and three assists. Whiteley had three goals and one assist for the Cavaliers, while Kalkstein scored two goals and added two helpers.

Finnigan and Gardner each contributed three goals for Virginia, while Austin tacked on one. Hagerman rounded out the scoring with one assist.

Towson (13-5) had four players contribute multiple goals, led by Jacie Kendall’s four. Nikki Marcinik had three goals and one assist for the Tigers, while Hillary Fratzke contributed three scores.

Defensively for the Cavaliers, Benner stopped nine shots in cage, while Kalkstein led the way with three caused turnovers and four ground balls. Gardner also scooped up four loose balls.

On the draw, junior Liz Downs, freshman Annie Thomas and Finnigan each won three draws.

Virginia (14-5) will advance to next weekend’s quarterfinal round to face No. 3 North Carolina in Chapel Hill, N.C. Game day and start time will be determined by the NCAA and announced at a later date.

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