'Hoos get ready to head to Philly, face Duke

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 SPORTS) -- Heading into Memorial Day weekend, only four Division I men's lacrosse teams in the country are still practicing. For the first time since 2011, Virginia is one of them.

"Practice has been awesome," UVA attackman Michael Kraus said before taking the field Wednesday morning. "We're basically professional athletes right now. We've got no school, just focusing on lacrosse. Guys have really been focused. Right now we're just approaching this Saturday like it's every other game, just one more opponent to beat."

The Wahoos will practice one final time in Charlottesville on Thursday, then travel to Philadelphia -- the site of this year's national semifinals. UVA will face Duke in Saturday's first semifinal, set for 12 p.m. at Lincoln Financial Field. Yale and Penn State will follow in the second game on Saturday, with the NCAA title game set for 1 p.m. Monday.

As a program, UVA will be making its 23rd all-time appearance in the NCAA semifinals. But for the current Cavaliers, this weekend will be a new experience.

"We try and enjoy it a little bit, but make sure we're staying driven for the next goal. Because we don't want to be satisfied and don't want to settle for what we've got," said UVA senior midfielder Ryan Conrad. "We're trying to stay positive and happy about where we are, but also just kind of staying driven and trying to get that next goal."

"All tournament we just want to earn another week with the seniors. And either way, no matter what happens, this is our last one. So it's pretty bittersweet," said junior midfielder Dox Aitken. "It's been a great ride, and there's only one way to end it off. The right way."

UVA enters the semifinals on a six-game winning streak that includes victories over North Carolina and then Notre Dame to win the ACC tournament, then against Robert Morris and then Maryland in the first two rounds of the NCAA bracket.

Virginia's last loss came on April 13 at Duke, when the Wahoos were outscored 7-2 in the second half in a 12-7 Blue Devils victory. Duke beat Richmond and Notre Dame in the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament to reach Philly, and the program's second straight semifinal appearance.

"They're just the next obstacle in our path. And they're a very good obstacle," said UVA head coach Lars Tiffany. "So it's us going up and winning one game. And that's the mentality for our team. We're going up there to win one game. And if that occurs, then Saturday night we've got another game to win. So just the mentality that this is the next opponent, and we know it's going to be a great challenge."

Tiffany is winless against Duke in his three seasons at UVA. None of his players have beaten the Blue Devils, either. The Cavaliers' last win in the series came in 2010. Duke has won the last 11 meetings between the programs.

"We're trying not to focus as much on the history of the games, and just focus on the team we're playing this year. And it's an incredible opportunity," said Conrad. "It's someone we've seen in the past, so we're better prepared than somebody, if we hadn't played them at all this season. And we see a lot of Duke, so we're excited for this opportunity."

"I know we haven't been too successful against Duke, but it's definitely, we want this game. Looking at the seedings in the beginning of the tournament, we wanted this game," said UVA sophomore attackman Matt Moore. "We wanted Duke in the Final Four, and we're excited about it."

The comments sections of CBS19News.com are designed for thoughtful, intelligent conversation and debate. We want to hear from our viewers, but we only ask that you use your best judgment. CBS19News.com tracks IP addresses. Repeat violators may be banned from posting comments.
View Comment Guidelines
powered by Disqus