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Junior Julie Gardner has emerged as one of the top attackers in the ACC this season. A midfielder last year, the Severna Park, Md., native made the transition to an attacker this year and now shares the team lead with 51 points. She is ranked third in the ACC with 1.64 assists per game, which leads the Cavaliers.

Gardner and Virginia travel to the 2011 ACC Women’s Lacrosse Tournament this week in Cary, N.C. The 10th-ranked Cavaliers open play against No. 4 North Carolina Thursday at 7 p.m., at the WakeMed Park.

Question: You lead the team in points and assists. How do you feel your transition from being a midfielder to now being a primary attacker has gone this year?
Gardner: It has really allowed me to focus on one aspect of my game. The past two years I have been splitting my time between learning our defense and offense, as well as working in transition. It’s still weird at times, but overall I think that it has been an advantage and has really shown in my offensive play.

Question: Do you miss defense at all?
Gardner: I definitely miss defense a lot. I’ve been a midfielder my entire lacrosse career up until this year, so it has taken some getting use to. I often catch myself yelling into the defensive end while I’m behind the restraining line to keep myself involved.

Question: What is the biggest thing you’ve learned or had to adapt to in your offensive role?
Gardner: The hardest thing that I’ve had to adapt to offensively this year is to learn how to control the game pace. As a midfielder, I would look to the attackers to slow it down when I needed a break. Now as an attacker, it is our job to make sure everyone is on the same page.

Question: The team heads to ACC Tournament this week. Talk about the strength of the ACC.
Gardner: The ACC always consists of the top teams in the nation for women’s lacrosse, so it is definitely important for us to play well this weekend. By getting a few good wins in against teams like UNC, Duke and Maryland, our team has a great chance to prove what we can do and how far we can go this season.

Question: What is it going to take to beat North Carolina?
Gardner: It’s going to take a combined effort by our entire team. We have really been focusing on supporting each other on and off the field this season. In order to beat UNC, we will all need to have each other’s backs for the entire 60 minutes.

Question: How did you get started with lacrosse?
Gardner: I started playing at a pretty young age. I think I was around the age of six or seven. My older sister got me into it.

Question: What is something about the sport that the average person may not know?
Gardner: Women’s lacrosse is a lot more physical than most people think. Just because we can’t hit like the guys doesn’t mean we don’t get beat up out there. Take a look at our attackers’ arms if you don’t believe me!

Question: If you could change one thing about it, what would you change?
Gardner: If I could change one thing, I think I would establish a stalling rule to make close games more exciting towards the end.

Question: Outside of lacrosse, what do you do with your free time?
Gardner: We hang out as a team a lot in our free time. Its always fun to walk around on the Downtown Mall, watch a movie at the apartments or just hang out on the corner.

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