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UVA Sports Spring Exam Week Whiparound

The lacrosse team brought home an NCAA Championship last season.  Will any squads take home the hardware this year?
The lacrosse team brought home an NCAA Championship last season. Will any squads take home the hardware this year?

The end of spring classes at UVA leads into a major challenge for UVA students and fans. No, it's not those pesky final exams upcoming - it's that long, dreary dead period for Virginia sports. While the ACC and NCAA world continues to turn, UVA is one of relatively few schools that completely shuts it down for a week during final exams, as student-athletes prove their mettle in the classroom. The merits of this policy are up for debate; is it worth it to interrupt the rhythm of multiple on-going seasons to allow for some extra study time? I'd say yes - not only do we retain our integrity as an academic institutions, but the exam break also makes for a handy excuse for mid-may losing streaks.

We'll do our best to invent and create report stories to get you your UVA sports fix during this trying time. But first, here's a quick sport-by-sport look at where our spring sports stand and where they are headed, with a focus on post-season prospects.

Baseball: (31-14-1, 14-10 ACC, #23 nationally) After an impressive class of third and fourth-years departed last season, including the entire starting pitching staff, Hoo fans knew that the young team would have some growing pains. These growing pains have resulted in an up and down season that seems to be on its way back up at the right time. The year started with questionable losses to Boston College, Liberty, Seton Hall, and Wright State, as the team sputtered to a 7-4-1 start before conference play began. However, the team has improved steadily over the course of the season, as it managed to slow its torrid pace of errors and solidify a pitching staff behind Kline, Silverstein, and Lewicki. Though UVA was swept by top-10 FSU in Talahassee and UNC at home, they have taken care of business elsewhere, culminating in this weekend's sweep at Miami.

In the ACC Tournament, teams are placed into two 4-team pools, with the two division champs given top seeds, and the next 6 teams seeded by record, regardless of divisions. In the Coastal, Virginia effectively sits 3 games in the loss column behind UNC and 3 games in front of Miami (when tiebreakers are taken into account). UVA is tied with Clemson at 4th in the conference overall, but holds the head-to-head tiebreak; with Florida State still on Clemson's schedule, the 4-seed seems like a likely ACC Tournament landing spot, which would put us on Florida State's side of the bracket.

Will eloquently assessed Virginia's hopes of hosting one of the 16 NCAA regionals yesterday; here's what he said, in case you missed it:

The two RPI services most people use for college baseball (Boyd's World and Warren Nolan) both have the boys in the 13-14 range. Boyd's World does an RPI Needs Report that projects what every team needs to end the season in the top 8, 16, 32, and 64. Fortunately, the Cavaliers can go 0-8 the rest of the way and still end the season in the top 32. To end the year in the top 16, it looks like they are going to have to go 7-1, but luckily they only have to play Georgia Tech and Maryland who are two of the bottom three in the conference.

Basically, the opportunity is there, and it is up to the boys to put themselves in a spot to be chosen by the selection committee.

Golf: (Men: #22, Women: #31) The men's team is fresh off a strong second place finish at the ACC Championships, with the women placing 5th out of 9 teams. The real story of the tournament for UVA was second-year Ben Rusch, who won the 2012 Individual Title (by one stroke), the first Cavalier to do so since 1955. The women's team is a 9 seed in the Central Regional in the NCAA Tournament, after receiving the program's eighth straight bid earlier this week. There are three 24-team regionals, with the top eight teams from each moving on to the NCAA Championships at Vanderbilt from May 22-25. The men's pairings have not yet been released, but they will compete in a regional for the right to play in the NCAA Championships in Los Angeles.

Men's Lacrosse: (11-3, 2-2 ACC, #8/#6) Virginia lacrosse started the year with a number 1 ranking and high expectations, especially with reigning Tewaaraton Trophy winner Steele Stanwick returning to the squad. Early in the year, it appeared that the team would run though its regular-season schedule, as took down top-5 Syracuse and Cornell and picked up road wins against Maryland and UNC. However, things have taken a sudden turn for the worse. Virginia was pummeled at home by Duke (again), then handily defeated by UNC in the ACC Tournament, capping the first-ever three-game home losing streak in program history. Last wekend's 10-8 victory over a 3-10 Penn Quaker team wasn't any reason to end the panic in Charlottesville. Though Stanwick and Chris Bocklet have had outstanding seasons, opponents' gameplans of "Shut down Stanwick to shut down Virginia" seem to be working against a surprisingly one-dimensional team.

The 16-team NCAA Tournament kicks off next Saturday, likely in Charlottesville, as the Hoos kick off their road to Foxboro. After righting the ship and riding all the way from the seven seed to a National Championship last year, could the team pull off another stunning turnaround? First-round NCAA pairings will be announced live on ESPNU this Sunday at 9PM.

Women's Lacrosse: (11-7, 3-4 ACC, #8/#11) The women's lax team has quietly turned in another very solid season to date. Playing one of the nation's hardest schedules, the lady Hoos notched season-defining wins against #2 Syracuse and at #7 Duke early in the year. However, the ACC schedule is an unforgiving one; four of the team's seven losses came at the hands of teams ranked in the top 5, including an ACC semifinal loss to UNC.

Headed to the ACC Tournament, Josie Owen's leadership and the team's past demonstration of its potential to beat elite competition give fans reason for hope. The women's tournament runs parallel to the men's, with seedings announced Sunday at 9PM.

Rowing: (#2) Virginia rowing is, once again, very, very good. The team has bounced back and forth from #1 to #2 in the rankings with California all year, dropping when Cal dominated the Pac-12 Championship (lame). Last weekend, the program took home its 12th ACC Championship and third in a row. The NCAA Championships will decide things once and for all from May 25-27 in New Jersey. The Hoos have the horses to win it all, especially at the top of their lineup. Could the second varsity 8, which struggled in wins against #3 Michigan and #4 OSU, help get it done? If so, Virginia could be celebrating its 2nd championship in 3 years.

Softball: (25-24, 8-13 ACC) After a promising 12-2 start, the softball team has regressed against tougher ACC competition. Still, the program appears to be turning itself around after spending years in the conference's basement. Junior pitcher Melanie Mitchell has led the way with a 19-12 record and 1.39 ERA. Against NC State this weekend, she threw 14 innings, striking out 17 and walking none in a shutout win (those are real stats). Still, while it has won series against BC and NC State, the team lacks real signature wins. The Cavaliers finish up their year next weekend in Chapel Hill where they'll compete in the ACC Championship.

Men's Tennis: (24-1, 14-0 ACC, #2) Brian Boland has put together another team with the capacity to compete for a national championship. The Hoos just keep winning matches, as they rolled to an ACC Championship, winning 12 out of 13 points. Mitchell Frank and Alex Domijan have been notably dominant, winning all of their conference matches and going 31-1 and 21-3 overall, respectively; Mitchell is currently ranked the #1 individual player in the nation.

Last year, the Hoos came one set away from their first ever tennis title. This season, USC, Georgia, Ohio State, and UCLA pose their main competition. The Hoos earned the tournament's #3 overall seed and will kick off the 64-team NCAA Championships May 12th and 13th at Snyder Tennis Courts in Charlottesville. The rest of the tournament will be hosted at Georgia, who will have the benefit of home-court advantage. The full brackets were released last night and are available here. The competition for individual championships will immediately follow.

Women's Tennis: (18-7, 7-4 ACC, #14) Though Virginia fell in the ACC semis to eventual champion Duke, the women's team heads to the NCAA tournament looking good. The Hoos slowly slid outside the top-10 this season based on their inability to pull off a win against the nation's elite, but the squad shows solid results against upper level competition, including wins over Alabama, Georgia Tech, Florida State, and Clemson. The women's bracket has also been released - UVA will host FDU, VCU, and Tennessee at Snyder before (hopefully) moving on to Athens, GA for the round of 16.