Wednesday, February 9, 2011

the lacrosse schedule

If you're ready for UVA to finally be a dominant force in college athletics, then you're ready for lacrosse season. That kicks off officially on Saturday the 19th, so to get you prepared, here's a primer on the opponents UVA faces off against this year. The opponents are typically almost identical from year to year, with just a couple changes each season. The ACC has just four teams, so UVA is free to schedule just about whomever they like, and that means big-time rivalries outside the conference.

UVA is ranked #1 in the coaches' poll, and 2nd in the media poll, to start the season - a familiar position. The trick has been staying there.

Quick explanation of the categories below: Preseason rank is first the media poll, then the coaches'. The computer is the final LaxPower computer rankings from 2010.

Drexel - Sat., February 19 - Home

Conference: CAA
Preseason rank: 16th/18th
2010 computer: 14th
Last season: W, 11-8

Drexel has been the season-opening game since 2002 and probably will be for a while. It's a good, medium-tough test to open the season; they were even good for an upset in 2007. They return most of their scorers and a solid goalie, and gave UVA a run last season; they led 7-6 to start the fourth quarter, and it took a three-goal outburst in the final four minutes to secure the win.

Mount St. Mary's - Tue., February 22 - Home

Conference: MAAC
Preseason rank: NR/NR
2010 computer: 32nd
Last season: W, 15-7; W, 18-4 (NCAA)

A familiar opponent, and not a good one. MSM earned the MAAC autobid to the tournament last year by upsetting somewhat favored Siena in their conference tournament. The Mount, as they go by, has been on the receiving end of a lot of UVA-administered curbstompings. The regular season game wasn't as close as it looked, as they did half that scoring against our third string. Typically this is a good game to find out about the freshmen and sophomores that'll be making themselves known this season, because Dom Starsia tends to go easy on using the first lineup. They do have a dangerous attackman in junior Cody Lehrer, who'll provide a good test for our rebuilt defense.

Stony Brook - Sat., February 26 - Away

Conference: America East
Preseason rank: 8th/6th
2010 computer: 8th
Last season: W, 13-8; W, 10-9 (NCAA)

This used to be easier, but Stony Brook is situated smack in the middle of Long Island, which is like being in Florida for football. Now they're the hot pick to be lacrosse's Butler. And the game is at their place, which came awfully close to being a house of horrors last year in the NCAA tournament. Stellar face-off man Adam Rand is back, which is the biggest reason this is a hugely dangerous game. WE CANNOT WIN FACE-OFFS and I will probably complain about this twenty thousand times this spring. Rand won 18 of 23 against us last May, causing UVA lacrosse fans to repeatedly throw heavy objects at the TV. The good news is, Stony Brook breaks in a new goalie this year, which could end up being their Achilles heel against our especially fearsome attack. But, you can't score without the ball, and Stony Brook returns two of a three-headed scoring monster in Jordan McBride and Tom Compitello. Could be just as tough a game as Syracuse.

VMI - Mon., February 28 - Home

Conference: MAAC
Preseason rank: NR/NR
2010 computer: 57th
Last season: W, 20-6

That's "57th of 60." VMI is a doormat. Last year's game saw UVA's starting goalie Adam Ghitelman pulled at halftime, and by the time the final horn sounded we were down to the fourth string. A tune-up scrimmage for the big fish at the end of the week...

Syracuse - Fri., March 4 - Away

Conference: Big East
Preseason rank: 1st/2nd
2010 computer: 3rd
Last season: W, 11-10

How close are these games? The announcers mentioned during last year's game that the all-time series between the two schools was dead even - in goals. So of course UVA took the game by a single point: the usual margin of victory. Make no mistake, this is a clash of the titans, and barring a loss to Stony Brook the previous weekend, it'll be for the #1 ranking. (And to think, it almost wasn't even on TV.) And this, too, is on the road, in the enormous Carrier Dome, where UVA/Syracuse has been known to draw 16,000 fans. Both teams have outstanding senior goalies with very similar traits. Syracuse is actually missing its top two scorers from last year, but the leading goal-scorer (Stephen Keogh) returns, and Syracuse is always obnoxiously deep so it hardly matters.

Vermont - Tue., March 8 - Home

Conference: America East
Preseason rank: NR/NR
2010 computer: 49th
Last season: W, 18-7

Finished 3-13 and in the bottom half of their conference last year and picked even lower this year. UVA is the highlight of their schedule, but this is a team that inhabits the bottom quarter of college lacrosse, the last of the punching bags before the real gauntlet begins.

Cornell - Sat., March 12 - Baltimore

Conference: Ivy League
Preseason rank: 7th/8th
2010 computer: 10th
Last season: W, 12-4

Last year I was all worried because of the previous season's tournament debacle in Foxborough, and we went out and had one of the easiest games of the year. In Ithaca. Go figure. Adam Ghitelman stood on his head and saved 14 of 17 shots on goal against him. Cornell relied on a two-man freak show to score most of their goals; the playmaking half, Rob Pannell, is back, but scorer Ryan Hurley is gone. This has the feeling of a team that might be a touch overrated to start the season, because of the loss of Hurley and a number of their better defenders. But the Ivy League is no slouch of a lacrosse league and they should still be the best team in it.

Ohio State - Sat., March 19 - Home

Conference: ECAC
Preseason rank: NR/NR
2010 computer: 28th
Last season: N/A

This is one of the two new games on the schedule, and you bet your sweet bippy I'm friggin' thrilled about this. You could say it replaces the Towson game, but Towson's a quality team so I prefer to assume Good Stony Brook replaces Towson while Ohio State replaces Medium-Crappy Stony Brook. The Midwest is trying to get a foothold in college lacrosse, and OSU scored a surprise win over Cornell in the NCAA tournament in 2008, but since then they've regressed a bit. Got some young scoring punch, but a lousy faceoff man, so they probably won't be able to take advantage of our #1 weakness. (Have I mentioned we suck at faceoffs? We suck at faceoffs.) OSU's a relatively new arrival on the scene - it's only in the last decade or so that they've gotten serious about D-I lacrosse, and they've been taking it three steps forward and two steps back. This is a team I'd love to assist with the latter process.

Johns Hopkins - Sat., March 26 - Away

Conference: Independent
Preseason rank: 11th/11th
2010 computer: 12th
Last season: W, 15-6

This has been a surprisingly one-sided series lately, and it shouldn't be that way. Really. Hopkins, obviously, is not the kind of team UVA should be beating by a combined score of 34-14 in the last two games, but we have. It's a big rivalry that's been a bit tarnished lately, not least because Hopkins - normally a tournament fixture - had to claw their way in last year and then bowed out uncompetitively to Duke in the first round. Not a good season, especially not by Hopkins' standards. And Hopkins was slammed by senior departures, too. They did get a head start in net by replacing faltering senior Michael Gvozden with freshman Pierce Bassett - in fact, that switch happened in the middle of the UVA game, and was permanent. It didn't stop UVA shots from finding the back of the net with impunity, and it didn't improve things much on the record sheet, but it did put an end to the blowouts until that Duke game. Unfortunately, though, I don't think this'll be Hopkins's year for a return to glory.

Maryland - Sat., April 2 - Home

Conference: ACC
Preseason rank: 4th/4th
2010 computer: 4th
Last season: W, 11-10; W, 11-6 (ACC)

Sadly for me, Maryland fired coach Dave Cottle after last season, on account of being tired of being NCAA bridesmaids. Never could get them to the finals. Cottle was enormously entertaining when he was angry. His face looked like a big square, squinty strawberry. Maryland took a bit of a flyer on Harvard head coach John Tillman, who was once an assistant down the road at Navy and appeared to have the Crimson inching upwards in the Ivy League hierarchy. UVA has had Maryland's number lately the same way Duke's had ours, but that means nothing come game time. The good news is, evil UVA nemesis Will Yeatman, who stood 8-foot-10 and weighed 450 pounds, is gone - the guy played tight end on the football team and was kind of big for that position too, let alone the lacrosse field, and he always seemed to rack up hat tricks against UVA. The bad news is, basically everyone else returns, except the goalie. It's the ACC, yo - it's a dogfight every year.

North Carolina - Sat., April 9 - Home

Conference: ACC
Preseason rank: 3rd/3rd
2010 computer: 5th
Last season: W, 7-5

Seriously, the ACC has four teams in it, and they're all in the top five. We should never have let Syracuse stay in the Big East. The only things you need to really know about Carolina are that they're still really damn good; and Billy "Sidney Crosby" Bitter is still on the team, just as he has been since nineteen-dickety-three, so you'll get to hear his name a lot whether or not UNC is actually participating in the game in front of your nose.

Duke - Sat., April 16 - Away

Conference: ACC
Preseason rank: 5th/5th
2010 computer: 2nd
Last season: L, 9-13; W, 16-12 (ACC); L, 13-14 (NCAA)

If somehow Duke could lose in the opposite ACC semifinal game every year, we'd never lose an ACC championship. The regular seasons lately, not to mention the ACC tournament except for getting the monkey off our back last year, have all boiled down to sweeping our way to the #1 ranking and then having to play Duke and having it all go for naught. Figures they'd land in our way in the NCAAs in 2010. Beating them in the ACC semis last year was nice - really nice - but until we can get an actual win streak going against them I figure it doesn't matter who their actual players are: a monkey in a Duke uniform would score a timely goal against us simply because the fates have decreed it.

Pennsylvania - Sat., April 30 - Home

Conference: Ivy League
Preseason rank: NR/NR
2010 computer: 30th
Last season: N/A

Despite playing in the lacrosse-strong Ivy League and their location in and around lacrosse hotbeds, Penn is no real threat. The ACC tournament precedes this game; it's something the team's been doing lately, playing a medium-bad team to stay fresh for the NCAAs.


The story around our own team this season is the Bratton twins and the rest of their senior class, which was quite the recruiting story when they signed in 2007. Rhamel and Shamel are amazing athletes, specializing in the "argh don't shoot that what are you thinkYESSSSSS!!!" In years past UVA's headline players have typically been attackmen - think Danny Glading or Ben Rubeor - but the Brattons are offensive midfielders, meaning a lot of our highlight goals will be slung at the net from long distance. Which is always exciting. The offense is going to be a powerhouse; the question is whether the defense can keep up. There'll be a lot of inexperience back there, and hopefully not too much reliance on Adam Ghitelman in net. Ghitelman is one of the best goalies in the country with the ball already on his stick, and has the ability to suddenly decide nothing's going in the net and play like the Incredible HulkGoalie. And then he'll let in a floater from twenty yards. Hopefully as a senior he'll put it all together and play like an MVP. If the defense gels early, the team will be mighty and unstoppable (except by monkeys in Duke jerseys); if not, it'll be a slightly bumpy year.


A little clarity on the football roster situation today:

- Space just got a little less tight with Torrey Mack's apparently academic-related attrition. We can afford this. As I've mentioned Mack was facing perform-or-else time this offseason with Kevin Parks taking off the redshirt and Clifton Richardson entering. Perry Jones, a year behind, had already lapped him. This means that Richardson's a lock and a half not to redshirt, barring injury. The scholarship count: 90.

- So those suspensions the other day: annoyingly police-related, after all. Oh, and Devin Wallace conveniently neglected to mention a previous run-in with the law to Mike London, who showed remarkable self-restraint in not ripping his head completely off. At least I assume so. At this point I'd put Walcott's and Price's return at 50/50, depending on what happens with that felony charge. And that's probably optimistic. (I'm so fucking glad I finally got to use the words "felony charge" in conjunction with UVA football. I think this signals our return to the big-time, don't you? The big programs down south go through this every year.) There are so many different ways Wallace could find himself disassociated with UVA that Vegas is opening a line:

100/1: UVA Judiciary boots him
100/1: UVA Honor boots him
50/1: Craig Littlepage boots him
25/1: Kind of hard to play college football in jail
1/1: London considers this strikes two, three, four, and five and congratulates Jared Detrick on his fifth year of scholarship football, courtesy of his numbnuts teammate

I always considered Detrick a strong possibility to be cut, but not if Ausar Walcott spends much time in the clink. Big hit to the linebacking corps, for sure. Mike Price is a problem only if Anthony Mihota goes down with injury, which, he's an offensive lineman so that's actually very possible. Cody Wallace is your only other center.

As for Devin Wallace, who, yes, is almost definitely a goner, if not for this little issue then for hiding the other one: the article said two of three assault victims were hospitalized. The third guy managed to escape serious injury probably because it was Wallace who tried to tackle him. oh SNAP.

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