HARRISONBURG, Va. – Keeping with the recent tradition, the Virginia Tech lacrosse team battled in a close game against the James Madison Dukes, but came up just short, falling 14-11 in both teams’ season opener. The game was played on the turf practice field at University Park, due to the recent inclement weather. Redshirt senior Julia Heaps got her final season off to an impressive start as she scored a career-high five goals and assisted two more in the game, while James Madison was led by Ali Curwin and Stephanie Finely who each finished with six points.
James Madison (1-0) got things started quickly with a goal 20 seconds into action, but sophomore Jessi Thon answered less than a minute later as she drove down the middle and put away Tech’s first goal.
The Hokies (0-1) took their first lead of the game when Heaps buried her first of three first-half goals, coming around the left side of the cage and finding the back of the net.
Tech forced a James Madison timeout with 13:25 left in the first half when Heaps struck again on a pass from classmate Kelly Naslonski. The quick flick from Heaps right in front of the goal put the Hokies up 3-2 midway through the half.
The Dukes regained their advantage with a pair of goals in a 12 second span to go up 4-3, but it was Heaps again who evened things up with under two minutes to play until the break. She broke away from her defender on the left side and dumped the ball into the goal to make it even at four.
James Madison tacked one more on to take a 5-4 lead into the half, as Jaci Gordon completed the relay off the draw from Finley. The Dukes outshot Tech 12-10 in the opening half, but Tech limited itself to just three turnovers, compared to James Madison’s eight.
The Dukes opened the second half with three quick goals to distance themselves from Tech, but sophomores Meghan Macera and Megan Will broke up the run four minutes in as Macera completed the relay off the draw and found the back of the goal. Less than a minute later Heaps returned the favor on Naslonski’s first-half assist, finding her classmate from behind the cage to make it a two-goal game at 8-6.
After the Dukes went on another three-goal run midway through the second half, Tech strung together three straight scores of its own. Will started things off with a wide-open goal off a turnover and Heaps was in on the next two after both teams went one a seven-minute scoring drought.
With a 12-10 lead with under two minutes to play, James Madison tacked on two more insurance goals as time ticked down, and Heaps put one away with 10 seconds left, but the game was already decided.
The Dukes took the slight shooting advantage in the game 27-23, but Tech forced the Dukes to make 14 turnovers in the game, while only committing nine itself. Finley finished with three goals and three assists for James Madison, while Curwin at four goals and two assists.
Tech’s newly assembled defense played strong in front of freshman goalie Meagh Graham. Senior Lindsay Roche finished the game causing four turnovers and grabbing three ground balls, while junior Maddy Hess caused two turnovers and picked up a pair for ground balls as well.
Graham saw a slight break in action during the second half and made five saves in her debut. Schylar Healy was in cage for the Dukes, playing the full 60 minutes and making four saves.
Tech returns to action on Wednesday, Feb. 19 to host High Point at 4 p.m.
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