'Hoos Hope to End UNC Drought in Elite Eight

Dating back to the spring of 2010, Virginia and North Carolina have crossed paths eight times in women's lacrosse. The Cavaliers have lost the last seven of those meetings.

The two ACC rivals meet again Saturday in Chapel Hill in the NCAA quarterfinals.

"I've played them so many times; I would love to beat them," Virginia senior Caroline McTiernan admitted after the Cavaliers' closed practice Friday at UNC. "It's been four years. We've played them at least twice each season. So I would say we are more than ready, and so prepared. So I really think we can do it."

McTiernan was a freshman on the last Virginia team to beat the Tar Heels -- a 13-12 overtime win in Charlottesville in March 2010. Later that spring, UNC ended Virginia's season with a 17-7 NCAA quarterfinal win in Chapel Hill. Saturday will mark Virginia's first appearance in the NCAA quarterfinals since that game.

Virginia is 1-2 at UNC's Fetzer Field this season -- an 8-7 loss to the Tar Heels during the regular season, then a 1-1 performance in last month's ACC Tournament.

"I think we're really excited," Virginia coach Julie Myers said. "It's definitely a familiar field for us. It's going to be our fourth game on this field; I think we only played eight at home. So it is our home away from home."

"But really, everyone's excited. They've been playing well, having a good time with one another, and next time we're here it's game day. So it's pretty exciting for all of us."

"They're a great opponent, great competition," senior Lelan Bailey said of the Tar Heels. "And this is what the Elite Eight is about. You're facing the best. So this will really prove our skill level, competing against UNC tomorrow."

The 2013 regular season was a struggle at times for the Cavaliers. Their loss to the Tar Heels capped a 2-4 start to the year, and Virginia beat just one ACC opponent on its schedule -- Virginia Tech, in the regular season finale. UVa needed to beat Duke in the conference tournament just to secure eligibility for the NCAA bracket.

But the Cavaliers have found their groove since earning an NCAA at-large berth. Last weekend they beat Penn 12-6 to advance, then became the only team in the bracket to upset a national seed with a 10-8 win over six-seed Georgetown.

"I mean, we definitely dipped down pretty low in the middle of the season. But we have definitely picked ourselves up from then," McTiernan said. "You're going to have highs and lows in seasons. I definitely think we're clicking. We're playing as a team. And a confident team."

"I think it made us strong, too," said Bailey. "We overcame a lot. It was kind of like, we know we can overcome things and fight through the obstacles we face. So I think it made us very strong as a team, and pulled us together."

Myers says her team's regular season struggles were also a product of a tough schedule. She pointed out on Friday that Florida is the only team in the Elite Eight that the Cavaliers haven't played already this year.

"We knew we were in the hunt, we were in the mix. We just weren't getting it done," she said. "I do think we're a little healthier now than we were during that critical stretch. And we're playing much better as a team, and have really come together on the field as well as off the field."

"So anything can happen tomorrow, and we're excited to have the chance."

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