The road to the Virginia baseball team's third ACC Tournament title in six years begins Thursday morning against Maryland in Greensboro. And the Cavaliers know it won't be an easy road to Sunday.
"Before the pool even came out, we knew going in that whatever teams we were matched up with, we were going to have to play our best baseball to win," sophomore outfielder Joe McCarthy said Monday morning. "And it came out, and obviously all the teams we face are good teams, and we're going to have to play good baseball to beat them, and it should be an exciting tournament."
The Cavaliers will head to Greensboro after Tuesday's practice as the No. 3 seed in the 10-team tournament. UVa will be joined in Pool B by Atlantic Division champion Florida State, the Terrapins, and the winner of Tuesday's play-in game between North Carolina and NC State.
The Wahoos also won ACC Tournament titles under coach Brian O'Connor in 2009 and 2011. Senior pitcher Artie Lewicki was a freshman on that 2011 team.
"It's definitely a challenge, I think for individually and as a team," Lewicki said of the tournament. "It's a tough week. It's a short week, too. Luckily we had a short week with graduation, so we're not completely moved forward. But I think it's going to be a great test for our team."
UVa dropped two of three this past weekend at Wake Forest, the program's first weekend series loss of the season. It was brought to O'Connor's attention on Monday that his previous two ACC championship teams also lost their final conference series before the tournament.
"It's an interesting fact," O'Connor replied with a laugh.
"It is what it is, and I think it's a good reminder to us," the Cavaliers' coach said of the series loss at Wake. "And after that I don't think it matters a whole lot. I think every week's a new week. These players, they have short memories. They have a lot shorter memories than you or I do."
"We felt like we didn't deserve to win these games," said McCarthy, who was one of five Cavaliers named All-ACC first-team on Monday. "And we know that we're capable of playing better baseball than we did down there, and we got what we deserved losing that series. But we're just going to move on from there, forget about it."
"I remember in 2011, we got swept (by North Carolina to finish the regular season)," Lewicki recalled. "But I remember that we took away from it that it was a good year. Even though we got swept at the end, we still came away with a really good season. And I think that was the same message that we came away with after we lost to Wake Forest."
That series loss at Wake also cost the Cavaliers the top spot in this week's Baseball America national rankings. UVa will head into the ACC Tournament ranked third in the country.
But O'Connor -- who was voted ACC coach of the year for the second straight season, and the fifth time in his UVa career -- was quick to point out on Monday that his team finished the regular season with the fourth-best winning percentage (.796) in the country, and went the entire year without losing back-to-back games.
"We had a terrific regular season," he said with a smile. "Now starts that new chapter. We get to get into the conference tournament, with a chance to win the ACC championship, and then move on to the NCAA Tournament."