Monday, April 11, 2011

weekend review

Thank everything for Steele Stanwick and a slippery Klockner field, or this wouldn't be a very fun weekend review in the lacrosse section. The good news in that department: An 11-10 win in which UVA significantly outplayed UNC for long stretches. The bad: Dipshit brainfarts that put the game severely in jeopardy.

Nobody was immune. Adam Ghitelman's decision to heave the ball upfield with six seconds on the clock in the third quarter led to one Carolina goal four seconds later. Rhamel Bratton tried the slick, low-percentage pass toward the net (and copious defenders) when all that was required was to run around the field for three minutes. Chris LaPierre froze in the face of a double team, which naturally dislodged the ball a split second later. All of these led to goals and heightened blood pressure.

The other thing that kept leading to goals was the defense's decision to defend everyone but the ballcarrier in transition. This is probably brain-damaged coaching rather than brain-damaged playing. Yes, I get that we don't want the ball to be passed to one of UNC's actual stars, but once the guy with the ball gets within eight yards, does it matter if it's Billy Bitter or Billy the Clown? They're going to score from that range, and it's not helpful to let them get there.

That said, transition defense was a major struggle but settled defense, amazingly, was not. My first thought was that the defense had improved just enough to allow Ghitelman to make the saves and look like the goalie he really can be. Later I realized that was wrong: the defense improved a ton. It turned Carolina's offense into our own offense at its most frustrating: ball gets passed around the perimeter until it's turned over or shot harmlessly into the goalie's stick. Credit the switch to the zone, a timely adjustment that was probably forced upon the coaches as much as anything by Matt Lovejoy's season-ending (OH GREAT) surgery. UNC clearly didn't expect that.

Overall a pleasant surprise that shouldn't have been a surprise at all (a reminder that this can still be a dominant team, even against quality opponents, when it wants to be) pockmarked by some monumental insanity. Encouraging; dumb mistakes are more easily fixed than the entire system.

It sets up the Duke game next week for an interesting scenario: because of how the tiebreakers work, UVA is either going to be the #1 seed or the #4 seed in the ACC tournament. Not that it ever matters, but that's the way it breaks this year.


Just to get this part out of the way: the baseball team lost a game. OH NO. We being UVA fans, no doubt by now the meltdown is well underway. (checking to see.) (not finding anything.) (doublechecking.) (still no.) Huh, OK, so, baseball fans are a patient bunch, or more patient than basketball fans anyway. It helps that that was only the third loss in 34 games and that a series win on the road against a top-ten team that's probably second-best in the conference is a good thing, not a bad thing. And you'd expect this patience from a group of people who enjoy a game in which they have to sometimes wait for the pitcher to get done scratching his ass and horking loogies on the ball ground before he decides he's ready to deliver again. Gives us time to get another beer.

Anyway, even then it's not entirely rainbows. All three losses have been on Sundays, which means Sunday starter Cody Winiarski is in for some scrutiny, especially after a game that saw his ERA jump up nine-tenths of a point. Every time he struggles and every gem that Will Roberts pitches on Tuesdays increases the call for Roberts to be moved to the weekend rotation. Never mind that Winiarski completely shut down both Poly and Maryland; a bad outing against the team with the seventh-best batting average and ninth-best slugging percentage in the country is enough to bring the doubters out of the woodwork. Explaining to people that George Washington bats .254 as a team and is 245th in the country and Georgia Tech bats .330 and is seventh never seems to have any effect; there's still a crowd that wants to see Roberts "get his chance," as if pitching on Tuesdays isn't a chance and as if that means he'll be forgotten about come the postseason and further as if he and Cody and the rest of the pitching staff hadn't been pitching side by side all offseason under the scrutiny of the coaches. RRGGH. Roberts is pitching wonderfully but Winiarski isn't pitching badly.

Anyway. Georgia Tech. Killed 'em. Danny Hultzen was lights the hell out again, allowing one earned run and one walk and striking out 12 on Friday. The bats came alive late, and Danny had his 7th win of the season. The lineup continued to hammer GT pitching for the rest of the weekend, earning a 12-9 win on Saturday and taking a 10-8 loss on Sunday. Even with the loss and a few extra runs for GT hitting, you are directed to be ecstatic about this: GT's starters are not chumps - they are the opposite of chumps - and our bats chased Mark Pope from what had been a pitchers' duel til the 7th, beat Jed Bradley into submission, and rained hits on Buck Farmer, too.

So: 31-3. Two one-run losses and a two-run loss, up against more than a five-run average margin in our wins. This team has never been out of a game. They're loose, enjoying themselves. They've got that swagger, without swaggering. The last time we saw a UVA team rolling like this was probably during the soccer team's run to the national title (not to put any pressure on.) But soccer is the kind of game where any old fluke at any time can explode all your work up to that point. Baseball can be fluky too but you know you're gonna get your nine hacks, every time, and there's something reassuring about that. There's also something reassuring about Danny Hultzen being on your team. Don't forget that.


Anonymous said...

Regarding baseball: Wow, what a season! Enjoy it while we can, because even though the program is now strong enough to generate great teams every year, you still don't often have the pieces fall into place the way they are right now. (And this is a likable bunch that I enjoy rooting for, too.)

Regarding Brendan: Dude, I don't want you to go to grad school! You're an unbelievable treasure to the UVa fan. What other blogger is so prolific, so in-depth, and to top it all off, such a fantastic and entertaining writer? I can't believe we're so fortunate to have this great blogger who provides blow-by-blow coverage of not only football and basketball, but baseball and lacrosse, and sometimes soccer, tennis, swimming, and golf!

You will keep covering UVa sports, right? Please? Even if, perhaps, with less frequency?

Brendan said...

Grad school might alter my schedule a little but have no fear! I have every intention of keeping this up.