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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – The third-ranked Virginia field hockey team opens the 2011 campaign with two games this weekend at the University Hall Turf Field. The Cavaliers begin the season against VCU at 5 p.m. Friday and will play host to No. 8 Penn State at 1 p.m. Sunday. Admission to all field hockey games is free of charge and parking is available in the Cage lot adjacent to the U-Hall Turf Field.

Domino’s pizza and Pepsi products will be available for all fans while supplies last for the Sunday game vs. Penn State. The Cavalier band will also be in attendace.

“We are so happy to be starting the season at home,” Virginia head coach Michele Madison said. “Going from preseason into classes and now all of a sudden we have games, it’s nice we can be home and settle in here and play in front of our fans this weekend.”

The Cavaliers, ranked No. 3 in the NFHCA/Kookaburra preseason coaches poll released Tuesday, were also picked earlier this week to finish third in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Additionally, sophomore Elly Buckley and senior Rachel Jennings were both named to the All-ACC Preseason Team.

Buckley and Jennings are two of six starters and 12 letterwinners returning from the 2010 squad that finished 18-4 and made its second consecutive appearance in the NCAA semifinals. Madison, now in her sixth season, also welcomes seven newcomers to the roster.

“The first weekend of the season, it’s definitely more about what we’re doing than about our opponent,” Madison said. “We don’t have the luxury right now to focus on what our opponents are doing. We are going to try to get our gameplan together, focus on our strengths and put those on the field.”

VCU, one of 24 squads receiving votes in the NFHCA/Kookaburra poll, is coming off a solid 13-7 year (5-2 Colonial Athletic Association), recording the second-most wins in program history. Head coach Kelly McQuade was tabbed the CAA coach of the year after leading the Rams to their first CAA Tournament berth since 2003.

VCU junior Kelsey Sherrer is the team’s leading returning scorer after putting up 15 goals and eight assists in 2010. Sophomores Emilie Soares and Stephanie DeMasi contributed six goals and seven assists a year ago, respectively. Senior goalkeeper Erin Jabionski, a Charlottesville native, returns in the cage for VCU. She had a 1.96 goals against average and a .692 save percentage last season.

Virginia has never lost to VCU with a 28-0 record all-time against the Rams. The last meeting between the two teams came in 2008 when the Cavaliers recorded a 3-0 win at home.

Eighth-ranked Penn State is coming off a 14-6 year (4-2 Big Ten) and fell in the first round of the NCAA Tournament (2-1 in overtime to No. 4 Syracuse). Two second team All-Americans return for the Nittany Lions in junior Kelsey Amy (19 goals) and redshirt junior goalkeeper Ayla Halus (1.32 GAA, .826 save percentage).

Penn State leads the all-time series with Virginia, 13-5, however the Cavaliers have won the last two meetings, including a 3-0 win in State College last season. The last Nittany Lion win was a 1-0 victory during the 2008 campaign.

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