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No. 1 seed UVa to face Duke in NCAA Semis

Duke and UVa athletics have a few things in common. Both must contend with striving for athletic excellence while maintaining academic standards/being the preeminent academic institution in their states; both consistently come up short in football -- and basketball... in 1996... (or simply "Duke ball" in the parlance of my office mate, who graduated from Duke); and both men's lacrosse programs have been unfairly smeared in the Washington Post in the past 5 years. And last but not least, while on the subject of men's lacrosse, both teams will face off in the NCAA tournament semi-finals this Saturday.

When the two teams first met earlier this season in Charlottesville, Duke handed UVa its first and only loss of the season and ended a 15-game home winning streak for the Cavaliers. Needless to say, UVa will be looking to avenge (again) the only blemish on its record. (This is the 3rd meeting between the two teams this season. The Cavaliers won 16-12 in College Park during the ACC Tournament.)

UVa advances to the semi-final round of the tournament by holding off a fourth quarter surge and narrowly defeating the Stony Brook Seawolves 10-9, a team that the Cavaliers overpowered 13-8 in Charlottesville in February.

Meanwhile, Duke is riding high coming off a 17-9 victory over intrastate rival No. 4 seed UNC, which has ESPN.com calling them "the team to beat." Duke has outscored their tournament opponents 37-14 in two games. By comparison, the Cavaliers have outscored their opponents 28-13. (However, it may be worth noting that both ESPN.com "guest analysts" expect the trophy to end up in Charlottesville.)

Without doubt, the post-season tournaments continue to be emotional times for the players. After the Stony Brook victory, Team captain Ken Clausen told the AP that "we want to be able to stick together as a team a little bit longer." He continued, "So coming out there and playing for the girls team and playing for Yeardley and going and doing this thing, that’s been on our mind and that’s been motivation for us. I think we’re all very happy to be sticking around with each other for another week."

The winner of the ACC showdown on Saturday will face either Notre Dame or Cornell in the Finals on Memorial Day (May 31) at 3:30pm on ESPN. If both favorites prevail, the National Championship game will be a rematch of the semi-finals from last year, when Cornell routed the Cavaliers 15-6.

The game against Duke on Saturday begins at 6:30pm and will be televised on ESPN2 and ESPN3.com. Virginia leads the all-time series against Duke 49-23.