CHARLOTTESVILLE — As Virginia’s women’s lacrosse returning players drilled in small groups this fall, the team’s newcomers worked at the other end of the practice field, a COVID-19 safety precaution. Even from a distance, the Cavaliers’ rookies made an impression.
“We could just tell, from the other side of the field, that they had a lot of energy and were excited to be here,” said junior attacker Ashlyn McGovern. “They didn’t act like freshmen at all.”
No. 16 UVA (1-0) added nine freshmen to its roster for this season, five of whom ranked in the top 31 national recruits, according to Inside Lacrosse. Eight played in the season-opening win over East Carolina, with two starting. The rookies combined for five goals, four assists and a save in the 21-6 victory.
Midfielder Mackenzie Hoag started, scored twice and had two assists, and attacker Morgan Schwab also was in the opening lineup and contributed a goal and an assist. Midfielders Maggie Bostain — the former Collegiate standout — and Aubrey Williams also scored, and midfielder Ellena Schildmeyer added an assist.
Freshman goalie Ashley West played the final 5:02 of the blowout, a game UVA led 14-1 at halftime.
“Our first-years are as talented a class as we’ve ever had, from top to bottom,” said coach Julie Myers, entering her 26th season leading the Cavaliers.
Their addition figures to be even more significant as UVA attempts to navigate the pandemic. While COVID-19 testing and contact tracing haven’t impacted Myers’s squad yet, it’s a threat that figures to loom all season. Being as deep — and as versatile — as possible, figures to be key.
“This is a year that everybody has to be ready,” said Myers. “I know you tell your team that in the preseason and throughout the season all the time. ‘You never know when your number’s going to be called.’ But this year, in particular, that is really, really true.”
But Myers’s freshmen don’t just add bodies, they add skill. That’s especially true in the attack, where the rookies add even more punch to an already potent offense, deep at both the attack and midfield positions. Its ability and versatility was on display in the win over the Pirates.
“We scored from 12 different kids and in a lot of different ways,” said Myers. “We scored on the fast break. We scored off draw control. We scored in the crease. We scored off a feed. One-on-ones. I think we attacked from a lot of different areas.”
That offense figures to be challenged Friday when it visits No. 14 Richmond (1-0).
The Spiders play an unusual defense that mixes both zone and man-to-man concepts.
The unit stifled Radford in a 19-10 win on Sunday in Richmond’s opener.
The Spiders are the preseason favorite in the Atlantic 10, returning 10 of 12 starters, including its entire attack, from last year’s team, which was 7-0 when NCAA spring sports were canceled due to the spread of COVID-19.
Virginia brought back seven starters from last year’s team, which was 5-3 when the season stopped. Included in those eight matches was a 13-12 home overtime loss to Richmond.
“They beat us last year and I think that adds some fuel to our fire,” said McGovern, who led UVA with four goals in the opener.