May 13, 2018

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HARRISONBURG — Outside the interview tent at James Madison University’s Sentara Park, head coaches Shelley Klaes-Bawcombe and Julie Myers shared a warm embrace. Then they headed in opposite directions, literally and figuratively.

Klaes-Bawcombe is in charge at JMU, whose storybook season will continue next weekend against No. 6 seed Florida in the NCAA women’s lacrosse quarterfinals. For Myers, who oversees the program at her alma mater, Virginia, the season ended Sunday.

On a warm spring afternoon, third-seeded Madison (19-1) defeated UVA (10-10) for the second time this season. Their first meeting was April 18 at Klöckner Stadium, where the Dukes beat the Cavaliers 15-10. In the rematch, JMU held on for a 15-12 victory.

The Wahoos entered the NCAAs having dropped seven of their previous eight games. But they routed Stanford 12-3 in the first round Friday night at Sentara Park and then, other than in a costly first-half stretch, played well again Sunday.

“Credit to UVA,” Klaes-Bawcombe said. “I thought they played their best two games of the season in the NCAA tournament.”

With 12:31 left in the first half Sunday, senior midfielder Kasey Behr‘s goal pushed UVA’s lead to 4-2. But the `Hoos didn’t score again until the 26:02 mark of the second half, when junior attacker Avery Shoemaker‘s goal cut JMU’s lead to 8-5.

The Dukes scored the last five goals of the first half, including three in the final 56 seconds. The final one came on a free-position shot as time expired.

“Credit to them,” Myers said. “They hit shots when they needed to. It was disappointing for our defensive unit, who played I thought very well for about 55 minutes of the game, to just take their mind off of doing the little things and the details, winning the ground balls and really sending help to shooters. We came up short on that.”

Still, the Cavaliers did not go quietly. Twice in the second half they cut their deficit to a single goal — first at 10-9 and then at 12-11.

“We went on a little bit of a run there, and you could feel momentum swinging,” said UVA sophomore midfielder Sammy Mueller, who scored four goals and won a game-high nine draw controls.

“I think we made a couple mistakes that allowed JMU to get back and make a counter. But I think we were able to swing momentum there our way a couple times.”

Each time the `Hoos surged, the Dukes answered. Seniors accounted for 80 percent of JMU’s goals. Haley Warden and Kristen Gaudian scored four apiece, Elena Romesburg contributed three, and Morgan Hardt added one.

“Those fourth-year kids, they’re 19-1 for a reason,” Myers said. “They’re as good as they get in terms of a fourth-year class.”

For the game, JMU was awarded 11 free-position shots, to five for UVA, and won 17 of 28 draw controls. After Virginia cut its deficit to 10-9 with 15:28 left, on the third of Shoemaker’s four goals, Madison won the next five draw controls

“We ran out of time in the end,” Myers said, “but I’m proud of the effort, proud of how resiliently we played and just proud of the girls in general. Disappointed to come up with a loss, though.”

For Virginia, the college careers of its five seniors — Behr, goalkeeper Rachel Vander Kolk, attacker Ana Hagerup, midfielder Lilly DiNardo and defender Daniela Kelly — ended Sunday.

“We’re definitely upset about it,” said Behr, a first-team All-ACC selection. “We obviously wanted to go on to play [in the NCAA quarterfinals]. But I think we’ve had a great fourth year, and basically all four years have been amazing … We wanted it, obviously, and we just came up a little short.”

Myers said her seniors have “all grown up so much. My favorite part of being a college lacrosse coach is taking kids when they’re 18 and passing them on to the real world when they’re 22. They do grow an awful lot in every way. You can see it at a dinner, you can see it on a field, you can see it everywhere in between, and academically too. So I feel like they’re ready to move on into the rest of the world, which I think is one of my jobs.”

The Cavaliers have advanced to the NCAA tournament in each of Myers’ 23 seasons as their head coach. This marks only the third time under Myers that Virginia did not finish with a winning record.

UVA posted a 9-9 record in 2011 and again in 2016.

Playing an unforgiving schedule, these `Hoos faded during the second half of the regular season and then lost their only game in the ACC tournament. In the NCAA tourney, however, the Cavaliers showed the form that helped them win eight of their first 10 games this season.

“Credit to the girls for not really losing their way, and for not turning on each other,” Myers said. “They really came back to practice every day during that stretch, and they were more committed and more determined to fight their way out of it.

“It is a peaceful feeling, but it is an empty feeling, because we wanted to win today.”

The season did not unfold as the Cavaliers hoped, “but we were very resilient and we stayed together as a team and we got even closer throughout the process,” Myers said.

“One of the measures of success is certainly how does your team respond to each other and how do they take care of each other, and I think we got an A-plus on that.”

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