2023 NCAA Lacrosse Rankings: No. 13 Virginia (Women)

PHOTO COURTESY OF VIRGINIA ATHLETICS

Rachel Clark was the ACC Freshman of the Year.


The 2023 college lacrosse season is almost here. As is our annual tradition, we’re featuring every team ranked in the Nike/USA Lacrosse Preseason Top 20.

Check back to USALaxMagazine.com each weekday this month for new previews, scouting reports and rival analysis.

NO. 13 VIRGINIA

2022 Record: 10-10 (3-5 ACC)
Final Ranking (2022): No. 16
Coach: Julie Myers

TOP RETURNERS

Ashlyn McGovern, A, Grad.

A sixth-year fixture in Charlottesville, McGovern redshirted in 2018 but has started nearly every game since. She scored 63 goals last spring and has always been a consistent presence, scoring in 27 straight games dating back to 2021 before she was held scoreless against North Carolina in the second round of the NCAA tournament.

Rachel Clark, A, So.

The ACC freshman of the year set a UVA single-season freshman record with 64 goals. Thrust into an offensive leadership role because of injuries to key veterans, Clark exceeded even head coach Julie Myers’ high expectations.

Kate Miller, A, So.

Virginia’s lefty finisher chipped in 27 goals and eight assists last season, but she could factor heavily into this spring’s offense. With Myers looking for her offense to push the pace in transition, Miller could become lethal as a finisher near the crease if UVA can capitalize on quick passing.

Aubrey Williams, M/DS, Jr.

Under the tutelage of former assistant Colleen Shearer, Williams became a force on the draw, collecting a program single-season record 149 last season. With the offensive firepower Virginia possesses, Williams’ contributions are critical.

KEY ADDITIONS

Annika Meyer, D, Grad. (Johns Hopkins)

Looking to bolster the defense, Myers dipped into the transfer portal to bring in a former Johns Hopkins All-American. Meyer is expected to start after recording 44 ground balls and 26 caused turnovers as a Blue Jay captain last year.

Darby Welsh, M, Grad. (Maryland)

A speedy midfielder who never quite found consistent playing time in College Park, Welsh should find plenty of time in Charlottesville — especially as a key contributor to Virginia’s revamped fast break.

Kacy Hogarth, M/D, Jr. (Maryland)

Another Maryland transfer with speed, Hogarth is also expected to kickstart transition out of the midfield. Hogarth started all 16 games for Maryland in 2021 but appeared in just six games in 2022.

Nicole Cruthirds, D, Fr.

A true defender, Cruthirds should factor into the mix right away on a team that otherwise returns much of its starting lineup from last year. Myers thinks her defense will be stingier than in years past, and Cruthirds is part of why.

KEY DEPARTURES

Graduations: Annie Dyson, M; Lillie Kloak, A







STORYLINES TO WATCH

What’s the impact of new voices on the coaching staff?

Julie Myers tinkered with her coaching staff, bringing in Brittany Dipper to work with the defense and goalies and Ally Kennedy to oversee the offense and draws. Each brings a different perspective.

Dipper, a veteran coach with knowledge of Virginia’s systems, is working to get more consistent, versatile player out of the defense. Kennedy, a younger coach and a gold medalist with the U.S. women’s national team, can relate to the players.

“[Kennedy] can talk with them in real time and with real recent experiences,” Myers said. “Brittany Dipper, she was a goalie of the year and a national champion in field hockey and lacrosse. In terms of what always made our defense stronger in years past, Dipper has been coaching our system and the way we’ve been doing things for years.”

Will that translate to a turnaround? The fall offered promising results. But fresh faces often offer the opportunity to reset, and that’s what Myers is hoping for.

How do you foster consistency?

Putting a consistent product on the field in 2022 was challenging for the Cavaliers. Yes, resume-boosting wins against Stanford, USC and Syracuse were results to be proud of. That said, Virginia only won multiple games in a row twice, and both of those streaks stopped at two games.

Injuries were a huge factor in the rollercoaster ride. Courtlynne Caskin went down with an Achilles injury in early February, marking the second season in a row in which the midfielder was essentially unavailable. Annie Dyson went down with an injury a few weeks later, leaving UVA with another massive hole to fill.

“Our injuries were to our leaders and fourth-year kids,” Myers said. “Our younger kids were supposed to follow their leads, but then they had to carry a college team in the ACC.”

They largely did an exemplary job given the circumstances, and they’ve set themselves up to be a more well-rounded team if everyone stays on the field. Practice has turned into a proving ground, Myers said, with measurables attached to many of the drills.

“When we set up drills, this is the expectation, and this is the target,” Myers said. “We’re trying to measure a few more things during the practice.”

ENEMY LINES
WHAT RIVALS ARE SAYING ABOUT THE CAVALIERS

“I think they really relied on key individuals last year. They need other support cast to do what they want to do in the ACC. I look forward to seeing what happens with the new coaching staff and new ideas flowing through the program.”

“The draw has been really strong for them. Aubrey Williams is someone we have to prepare for. Ashlyn McGovern is a veteran with leadership and execution.”

BEYOND THE BASICS
POWERED BY LACROSSE REFERENCE

90%

EGA is my metric for overall player production. It’s like WAR in baseball or PER in basketball. It takes all the good and bad things that a player does and puts it into a single number. And since it’s an all-in-one metric, it’s a good way to look at returning production. Fortunately for UVA, 90% of its EGA production is back for the 2023 season. And if there is one player you’d look at to pick up where she left off, it might be Rachel Clark. Her ACC Freshman of the Year season finished with a usage-adjusted-EGA mark (basically individual player efficiency) that put her in the 88th percentile nationally.

Lacrosse Reference Glossary

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