On Friday, the Virginia Cavaliers will host the Syracuse Orange in a 5:30 PM matchup to open up League play. The Cavs are ranked #14 in the Cascade/Maverik Media Poll and #17 in the USILA Coaches' Poll. UVA opened its season up losing to Loyola 4-11 and went on to beat Drexel, lose to High Point, and beat Penn. This Cavalier team is searching for an identity and it's tough to know which team, especially on defense, will show up.
I previewed Virginia's season a few weeks back, you can check it out here.
Virginia Quick Facts
Virginia's All-Time Record Vs. SU: 16-15
Virginia's Streak Vs. SU: L1
Virginia's Last Win Vs. SU: March 1, 2014; UVA 17 - SU 12
Virginia's 2015 Record: 10-5; Did Not Make ACCT; Lost in First Round of NCAAT
Virginia's 2016 Record: 2-2; Wins versus Drexel and Penn; Losses versus Loyola and High Point
2016 ACC Preseason Coaches' Poll: #T3 out of five
2016 ACC Preseason All-Conference Players: Matt Barrett (G), Michael Howard (LSM)
At attack, Ryan Lukacovic, James Pannell and Mike D'Amario should be the starters against Syracuse. The Cavaliers have a .249 shooting percentage, leaving them nearly at the bottom of division one. Pannell is probably the most dangerous player at the attack position. He can hit corners but the senior is also a very good distributor. He's tied for the most points on the team with ten. Lukacovic is deadly on the crease, he can find ways to get open and get off a quick shot.
The first midfield line will feature Zed Williams leads the Cavaliers in goals and groundballs with nine and 19 respectively. He's also a defensive presence picking up three caused turnovers this year. The junior is a big dude who can beat you on the crease or from deep. Williams came to UVA with massive expectations. After a disappointing freshman season, Williams bounced back with 37 sophomore points. The UVA coaches made it clear at the beginning of the season that they expected Williams to really hit the gas this year. AJ Fish accompanies Williams on the first line midfield. He's put up six goals on 14 shots and three assists this year. Senior Greg Coholan should be the third starter at midfield. Coholan was a USILA Honorable Mention All-American in 2015 with 39 goals and 53 assists. This season he has started all four games, three at midfield and one at attack, compiling four goals and four assists. The fourth best midfielder for the Cavaliers this year is Ryan Conrad. The freshman came into UVA rated as the #1 recruit in the nation. He is a good shooter on the run and off balance and has at least one goal in each game this season having started two of the four.
The faceoff factor will be crucial. We have two of the best faceoff guys in division I going at it on Friday. At the faceoff X, Ben Williams will have a tough matchup against former walk-on Jason Murphy. The sophomore has taken 62 faceoffs this year and has compiled a .694 winning percentage, good enough for seventh in the nation.
In goal, Matt Barrett has struggled. He currently has a .481 save percentage and a 10.04 goals against average, not very good numbers and well below what Barrett is capable of. I've seen Barrett give up way too many long-range goals this season. In the end, however, I think the real problem lies with the defensive unit, which has put too much pressure on its goalie. Tanner Scales has returned after missing the entire 2015 season, but it hasn't seemed to make a difference. He's got 14 groundballs and a team leading eight caused turnovers. Speaking of groundballs, the groundball battle should be interesting on Friday. Syracuse is averaging 37.33 GBs per game while Virginia has picked up 40 per game. Considering how many turnovers Syracuse is giving up per game, 14.33, groundballs could be a very important factor.
Syracuse will travel to Charlottesville, VA, to take on the Virginia Cavaliers on Friday at 5:30 PM. The game will be broadcasted on ESPNU and can be heard on TK99.