With a 5-4 record and only four regular-season games remaining before the ACC Tournament, Virginia is in danger of missing out on the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2004.
Teams need to have at least a .500 record to qualify for the tournament and three of the Cavaliers’ next four opponents are ranked higher than they are.
“I’ve always felt like if we can just qualify for the tournament, we’re going to be selected,” said Virginia coach Dom Starsia. “Even this year, no matter how this turns out, we’re going to be at the very top for strength of schedule and RPI with the people that we play...
“I think we have a playoff resume if we can qualify.”
Saturday, No. 15/17 Virginia begins its ACC portion of its schedule when it hosts No. 2 Maryland at Klockner Stadium.
The Cavaliers are coming off a disastrous loss to Johns Hopkins last Saturday in which they fell behind 9-1 by halftime and wound up losing 15-8.
Maryland (6-1, 1-1) was unseated from its perch as the No. 1 team in the country, losing at home to North Carolina, 10-8.
After starting the season 4-0, Virginia has dropped four of its last five, including three straight games.
In the Johns Hopkins loss, UVa scored on just one of its first 20 shot attempts.
“I don’t think we’ve put together 60 minutes yet of playing the way we want to play,” said Virginia senior Matt White, stating the obvious. “I think we need to get a little bit smarter and a little bit tougher. When things aren’t going our way, we need to grind these games out and turn things around so we can get in the win column here.”
Starsia said sophomore Rhody Heller will “likely” get his third straight start in goal over freshman Dan Marino.
“I think he’s done a good job giving us a chance to win,” Starsia said. “We need a little better goal play like we need a little better attack play, a little better midfield play and a little better coaching."
The last meeting between the teams at Klockner Stadium was the epic seven-overtime victory by Virginia in 2009.
Kevin Cooper leads Maryland with 14 goals and 12 assists. Niko Amato is stopping 58.7 percent of shots inside the cage.
“It’s a typical Maryland team,” White said. “They’re tough. They’ve got strong players, great-skilled players, they’re great in the goal, just about great in every facet...
“We’re going to have to be up for the test.”
White said Virginia players haven’t given much thought to their NCAA Tournament prospects.
“We want to get one win this week and that’s against Maryland,” he said, “so that’s what we’re looking forward to.”
Starsia admitted he’s constantly looking at the bigger picture.
“I always worry about it — that’s my job,” he said, when asked about the NCAA Tournament. “I think we’re going to be in this right until the very end.”