Monday, January 30, 2006

Killer Schedule

Coaches like to schedule strong opponents, it makes their team "battle tested". They won't be intimidated come tournament time. When Virginia lost to UCLA in the Sweet Sixteen of tennis, that's what head coach Brian Boland had in mind. This schedule however is not just's downright murderous.

The number one team in the land started with a road loss 4-3 against 9th ranked Pepperdine. The Cavaliers rallied to defeat 20th ranked USC 4-3 and then took a "break" to beat 54th Minnesota 5-2, both games were on the road. Then Virginia played its first home match against 33rd ranked VCU, a team that Boland found to be very underrated. The Cavaliers pulled off another 4-3 victory, followed up by another 4-3 nail-biter against 26th ranked Notre Dame.

Noticing a pattern?

Two days later Virginia was back at it again. This time they could not handle the 4th ranked Illinois team on the road. UVa went down 5-2, their first 5-2 loss since 2004 against UNC or 46 straight matches for those keeping track. That's crazy! A mark like that is one that should be truly appreciated, especially when Virginia consistently plays teams like this. Virginia is not just proving that they can take a hit, but that they want this top ranking earned.

No one knows if this loss will cost them their place at the top but if so, Virginia need not worry because the ranked teams keep on coming. Continue to beat these top 25 teams and you will have one impressive resume. Next up is a home match against 7th ranked Baylor (at least it's at home). Not to mention contests with Michigan, Texas A & M and Texas, that's 48th, 13th and 22nd respectively.

The matches have also marked some amazing matches. The Illinois campaign featured two epic three set matches one won by Virginia, the other lost. Somdev Devvarman was named an ACC player of the week taking down the 51st, 8th and 11th ranked players in the nation. That's a pretty good career in and of itself, but Devvarman, a sophomore did it all in the same WEEK.

In a sports culture where most top teams try to avoid being taken down from their perch, it is incredible to see how hard Virginia has stacked the deck to really give itself a challenge. It may hurt them in the short term but Boland is taking a substantial gamble that this death march of matches will make Virginia better prepared when the NCAA tournament comes around. If he's right, Virginia may not have to rely on just lacrosse to win national championships.

If he's wrong, well that's the glory of there always being a next year.


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