HARRISONBURG, Va., Nov. 11, 2008 – James Madison, three-time defending champions of the Colonial Athletic Association, will face Virginia out of the Atlantic Coast Conference in the first round of the 2008 NCAA Championship on Saturday afternoon at 2 p.m. at Wake Forest’s Kentner Stadium in Winston-Salem, N.C.
Fifth-year head coach Antoinette Lucas, the 2008 CAA Coach of the Year, said of the matchup, “I think Virginia has gotten a whole lot better and I think James Madison has gotten a whole lot better since we played. I’d like to think we can come out with a good win. They’ve had some good wins recently against Duke and are playing very well.”
JMU (18-2), ranked fourth in the final STX/National Field Hockey Coaches Association poll, and #12 UVA (13-8) will be the second match of the day following the opener between the tournament’s second seed and regional host #2 Wake Forest (19-3) and #18 American (13-7) at 11:30 a.m. The winners will square off on Sunday at 2 p.m. for the right to advance to the Final Four at Louisville’s Trager Stadium.
After winning their third consecutive CAA title and fourth overall, the Dukes will be making their ninth appearance in the NCAA Championship. JMU is 6-7 all-time in tournament play and 2-6 against ACC teams in the NCAA Tournament, which includes a 2006 overtime loss at Duke, a 2007 win over Duke, and a 2007 loss at North Carolina. The other ACC win came in the 1994 national championship game against UNC. JMU and Virginia have never met in the NCAA tournament while the Dukes lost their only meeting with Wake Forest in 1999.
“There are two brackets that only have one ACC team between them so you’d love to be in one of those, but these are the cards we’ve been dealt,” Lucas said of facing the nation’s top conference in the rankings. “We’ve prepared for it with our scheduling during the season. Certainly to win twice against ACC teams with Virginia and Wake would be the icing on the cake. These kids have been taking the extra step every year that we’ve been together. They want to get out of the second round very badly and I think we can do it.”
Getting to the national semifinals will mean continuing to rely upon a defense that ranks first nationally in shutouts per game (0.55), goals against average (0.69), and save percentage (.827). Junior goalkeeper Kelsey Cutchins (Suffolk, Va./Lakeland), the CAA Player of the Year, ranks first in the nation individually in GAA (0.66) and save percentage (.831). CAA Defensive Player of the Year senior Melissa Walls (Berlin, N.J./Eastern Regional) and the JMU backfield have limited opponents to just 14 total goals, 11 shutouts, and 6.5 shots per game
Not to be overshadowed, the JMU offense has been dynamic and balanced with three players ranked in the top 10 of the CAA in points, four scoring at least nine goals, and four of the top 20 point scorers in program history. Senior Lauren Walls (Berlin, N.J./Eastern Regional), who was named the CAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player, leads the way with 35 points on 14 goals and seven assists. Senior Ashley Walls (Berlin, N.J./Eastern Regional) and senior Melissa Stefaniak (Plymouth, Pa./Wyoming Valley West) have 28 and 31 points respectively while junior Meghan Bain (Berlin, N.J./Eastern Regional) has nine goals.
JMU will face a tough regional site in order to meet its ultimate goal of reaching the final four. Said Lucas, “We’ve been really focused. Once post season started, we felt like it was a six-game season with two to win CAAs, two to get out of the regional, and two to win the final four. When you play great teams, you don’t know how it’s going to go sometimes. You just hope that lady luck is there and you’ve prepared and you’re ready to go the distance.”
JMU has already faced all three opponents in its bracket this season, all in the first seven matches of the season. The Dukes pulled out a 1-0 double overtime win over the Cavaliers on Sept. 10 in Harrisonburg. Ashley Walls scored with 1:43 remaining when Melissa Stefaniak intercepted a pass and drove the field with Walls for the game-winning assist. UVA led JMU in shots 17-16 and corners 15-10 while both keepers had five shots.
Virginia leads the all-time series 27-12-2 against JMU. The Cavaliers lost six of their last nine matches of the season but did manage to post a pair of key victories over Duke in the last two weeks. UVA ranks in the top 11 nationally in points, goals, and assists per game. Paige Selenski leads the way with 43 points on 17 goals and nine assists. Amy Desjadon has played two-thirds of the minutes in goal with a 1.37 GAA and .705 save percentage.
Wake Forest was one of just two losses for JMU in just the third game of the 2008 season in Winston-Salem. Lauren Walls scored the only JMU goal before the Demon Deacons responded with three unanswered goals for the 3-1 win. Minou Gimbrere had a goal and two assists while Hilary Moore posted a goal and one assist. WFU led in shots 15-8 and corners 6-4.
The Demon Deacons lead the series 8-3 against JMU. Wake ranks in the top six in the country in winning percentage, scoring average, goals per game, scoring margin, assists per game, and points per game. Michelle Kasold had 46 points on 10 goals and 26 assists, which ranks second nationally. Gimbrere is fifth nationally with 22 assists while Moore leads in goals with 17. Crystal Duffield has a 1.75 GAA.
The Dukes defeated American 1-0 on Sept. 21 in Washington, D.C. Stefaniak scored the only JMU goal in the shutout win. Cutchins made three saves while shots were tied 9-9 and American had more corners at 8-4.
JMU leads the series 20-8 against its former conference mate. AU had won four in a row in the series until the last two meetings. Irene Schickhardt leads the team with 45 points on 17 goals and 11 assists while Alyssa Poorman has a 1.35 GAA. As a team, the Eagles rank seventh nationally in shutouts per game while also in the top 20 in scoring and goals against average.
Overall, JMU went 3-2 against teams in the tournament with three of those five squads all being placed in the Dukes’ bracket. Other regular season opponents include #13 Louisville (14-6), which will face four seed and #6 Iowa (16-4), as well as #7 North Carolina (14-5), which will battle host #10 Michigan State (16-5).
The tournament’s top overall seed is #1 Maryland (18-2). The Terrapins will host #20 Albany (12-9) and will be joined in College Park by #5 Connecticut (17-3) taking on #8 Duke (14-5). Third-seeded #3 Syracuse (20-1), which boats the best record in the nation, will host Massachusetts (17-4). Also in the bracket is #11 Penn State (13-6) against #9 Princeton (16-2).
Further information on tickets, directions, parking, and more are available on the tournament championship page with the link listed above.