Tuesday, March 9, 2010

rays of light







Just ponder all that for a second. It's possible, even likely, there's never been a point in history in which UVA athletics has been so successful as a whole. Four ACC championships. One national championship. Three teams ranked #1 nationally. It's as if the gods have smacked down our football and basketball teams to balance out the success on all the other fields. Or vice versa. Because these would be truly heady times indeed if we had a football and/or a basketball (men's, that is) team that was even remotely competitive.

Even football is having its good times at the moment. The team isn't losing games and there's a solid wave of positive recruiting vibes slowly building up around Mike London and co. that even has the Hokies a bit jittery. (Although if they're as ADD as we are about stuff, it may not be saying much. But still.) Anyway, the football team is slowly working on hoarding up the same kind of goodwill that the basketball team built up last year and is currently using up in order to get through the tail end of a miserable six weeks. (The parallels between football in March 2010 and basketball in July 2009 are striking. Believe me, that will more or less continue unabated all throughout the actual football season, so enjoy the recruiting fun times while they last.)

So let's put off talk of basketball until, say, tomorrow, when the preview of the tournament game will double as a fortune-telling of sorts for the next year.

Instead, let's offer up some congrats to the out-of-nowhere wrestlers, who stole an ACC championship right out from under the noses of the Hokies and Terps. I know about as much about wrestling as I do about the inner workings of the Space Shuttle, which is why I don't ever mention it, but hey, I'm all for celebrating an ACC championship. As a double bonus, it was probably the last good chance VT will have at getting one this year, meaning they're likely to be shut out of that particular count. So good on the grapplers: an elusive seven ACC championships is now doable.

Baseball managed to keep hold of the #1 spot in those publications that had us there before, despite a Friday loss to Wright State in which the bats went cold. Staying undefeated in baseball is bloody difficult, so as long as you recover and smash your way through the rest of the series, folks will look the other way for a hiccup or two. And Wright State and Dartmouth were tournament teams last year, so it's not like we lost to, say, Manhattan or Maine.

But the game I actually watched this weekend was the Syracuse lacrosse clash, and of course it was decided by a single goal. Again. You know I'm a damn loudmouth, so here's what I think about what I saw:

- Chris LaPierre rules. When I put together the highlight video of that game, if at all possible I'm going to make sure I include the highlight of him trucking a double team. Possibly complete with truck horn sound effects. The funny thing is that I was already duly impressed with his athleticism and speed, having watched him blow past a Cuse defender on a couple occasions. A midfielder that can either race past a defender or bulldoze through him? YES PLZ. Also please send all outlet passes stamped and addressed to #44.

- Not only LaPierre, either. Throw in the speed and athleticism of the Brattons and the clutch-nasty shots from Brian Carroll, and the midfield is looking really exciting. This is a team that needs to try and push, push, push in transition and really up the tempo when they can.

- Syracuse didn't score an even-strength goal for almost three full quarters. Defense was a question mark, but just as with the faceoffs against Stony Brook, now we know they can do it. Can do it - I'm not quite convinced yet there won't be some untimely breakdowns later on.

- Speaking of faceoffs, Benincasa, I think I read that he was 10-for-15 in the first half. And that would mean he was 0-for-6 in the second. Big shocker that we went on a big run in the second quarter and spent most of the fourth hanging on for dear life, yeah? It's just like I said before: we know they can do it - win the faceoff battles, that is - but whether they consistently will is still up in the air.

- I sure wouldn't mind if Adam Ghitelman would stop a few more shots, but I don't think there are many goalies in the country better than he at the aspects of playing goalie that happen at those times when the ball isn't flying toward the net. Example: the awareness he had, late in the game, when a shot missed the net and he realized no Cuse attacker had gone behind. He raced out and dove toward the line, and the ref gave UVA the possession. Heads-up and hustle all in one.

- OK, yes, I'll say it: the refs screwed up by allowing Stanwick that quick restart. Of course, they'd been screwing up all game - I don't think it was a well-reffed game at all. Bad fouls, missed fouls. The calls went both ways so at least it was consistent, and I feel like we just lucked out and benefitted from the most strategically lucky bad call. Call it a make-up for Stanwick having his head taken off without a foul call, I guess.

Revenge week is this Saturday as the Hoos travel to Ithaca. Last year in Foxboro, Cornell used basically the lacrosse equivalent of the pack-line defense and reduced our offense to little more than shuffling the ball around the outside. A lot. Every so often we'd send it toward the great red wall around the net and maybe it hit the ground and maybe it didn't, but it always came out on a Cornell stick.

There, it's nice to talk about sports that are doing well, isn't it? Tomorrow it's back to basketball. Don't worry, it's almost over. And besides that, I have proof positive that this whole mess of a season hasn't gone quite so badly as it looks like from here and why things are looking up regardless. Although we'll all be holding our breath for departures this offseason so that the latter point remains true.

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