An overcast and unusually cold Saturday was the backdrop leading into Virginia Tech’s final regular season game against the University of Virginia. A back-and-forth first half saw an on-fire Hokie team, but this energy could not be capitalized on. Small mistakes and fouls led to a comeback from the Cavaliers that cost the Hokies six unanswered goals and the game. Tech left Charlottesville, Virginia, with a loss, dropping its last game 13–10.
The No. 22 ranked Hokies started off Saturday with a bang, going goal-for-goal with UVA until the last four minutes, when Paige Petty, Emma Harden and Mary Claire Byrne combined to add four back-to-back goals to finish out the first half. This put the Hokies in a four-point lead, a nice place to be against a top 10 team and in-state rival. Ranked No. 7 in the country, the Cavaliers are a major presence in the ACC and country in terms of their dominance in the lacrosse scene, and have squashed their last six opponents by a score differential of four or more goals.
“We were in control for a good part of that game,” said head coach John Sung to HokieSports. “We checked a lot of boxes, scoring the first goal of the game, leading at halftime, scoring the first goal of the second half so I was pleased with that.”
After halftime, however, is when things started to break down. Byrne and Petty tallied another point each for the Hokies, and the second half started to look like it would be a carbon copy of the first, as Lila Barker added one of her own for the Cavaliers in between the two. But a shot from Byrne that just nearly missed the goal instead ricocheted off the goal post and was recovered by Lauren Martin. This ground ball pick up was the start of six minutes of play between the two teams before another goal was scored. The exhausting rally saw six clears and four shots between both squads, ending finally in a point opportunity for the Cavaliers, off a free position shot from Maggie Jackson who incurred a foul by Mary McCarthy.
The rest of the half was dominated by the ‘Hoos. Tech didn’t see another point, and instead tried to fight off a five-goal run from UVA. These were exacerbated by the two turnovers from the Hokies, and though the Cavaliers got a bit sloppy as well at the end, notching a yellow card and two fouls of their own, the Hokies were again unable to capitalize, and the end of the game slipped through their fingers.
“These girls are learning that we have to be perfect and we had too many mistakes out there today which didn't allow us to have a good result,” Sung said.
Despite the loss, Harden tallied four goals — matching her career high, and saw the debut of freshman Grace Nelson, who added a goal of her own as well as five caused turnovers and two ground balls.
Next for the Hokies is the ACC Tournament, where they will travel to Boston, Massachusetts, to face No. 2 North Carolina. A win against the Tar Heels would be the first in the program’s history, and would advance the Hokies to the second round of the tournament. Earlier this season, Tech lost to UNC 19–5.