High octane Cavaliers prepare for top-ten showdown with UNC
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 SPORTS) -- Only a few weeks after the let down against Maryland, No. 3 Virginia were left in a similar mindset following the loss to Duke and once again with little time to stew on those feelings.
"The guys are definitely angry, same thing as Maryland, came back the week after had a good week of practice, a little bit of venom," senior attackman Xander Dickson said, "Guys are upset, guys are ready to get back after it, so just back on the horse not much else you can do."
For the fourth-straight week, the Cavaliers will prepare for a top-ten opponent with a Friday night trip to face No. 10 North Carolina. Virginia has not dropped back-to-back games since the 2017 season, winning 17-straight games after a loss.
"I think guys responded in a positive manor, it's just onto the next one right," UVA assistant coach Kip Turner said, "Whether win or loss, I think our mentality has to be let's go onto the next game and let's go get a win against Carolina."
Ill-timed turnovers and missed opportunities were the problems players and coaches pointed to after the 16-14 loss to ACC rivals Duke. One thing which has not failed the Cavaliers this season is their offense, currently leading the country with 18.11 goals per game under the direction of assistant coach Sean Kirwan.
"Every year is different, that's part of my job to make sure the pieces of the puzzle are fitting and not trying to force the issue," Kirwan said, "I have a great group that I get to coach every day, they're tremendous young men that care, they love each other, they share the ball really well, so it's allowed us to do some fun things.
While traditionally potent, Virginia has reached new heights this season under Kirwan, currently on pace for the program's highest goals per game mark since 1997, when the team averaged a school record 18.2 goals. Part of the offensive success lies with the attacking trip of All-American Connor Shellenberger and senior attackmen Payton Cormier and Xander Dickson, the only trio in the country averaging at least five points per game.
Cormier and Dickson also rank among the top-three goal scorers nationally with the quarterback, Shellenberger, leading the country in assists.
"It's a great role to have in an offense like this because we put a lot of effort and a lot of emphasis on our inside looks and I think Coach Kirwan always changes stuff to keep getting those looks," Dickson said, "Takes a lot of effort and it can be tiring at times, but we love it because our teammates are so willing to chuck it into us and trust us that we're going to catch it and make a play, so it's a pretty fun spot to play."
Record-breaking numbers though have not carried Virginia to wins against Maryland or Duke, mainly because of missed opportunities and turnovers. Kirwan has turned the attack's focus to fixing those issues heading into a matchup against North Carolina and their third-ranked defense nationally, only allowing 8.5 goals per game.
"Let's be honest we're never going to truly piece together a perfect game, I don't believe in that," Kirwan said, "But at the same time we can stick to our fundamentals and tenants for 60 minutes."
Another sharp week of practice followed the latest letdown to Duke, showing Kirwan the attention to detail that will ultimately turn the ship around heading into the most important months of the lacrosse season.
"Think focus is the word that comes into my mind, this is a group that cares a lot and obviously Friday night wasn't the result we wanted," Kirwan said, "But we know with a quick turnaround, another ACC opponent, a road game that we really needed to focus up quickly and I thought we've responded really well."