Monday, May 2, 2011

biggest weekend review ever

I feel a little overshadowed this week.  Between Osama getting a bullet in the brain pan (squish), the NFL draft, the royal wedding, and Princess Beatrice dressing up as Cthulhu for said wedding, the little happenings here in the world of UVA seem a little minor.

But that's why there's this blog.  You can read about stupid hats on TMZ.  You can't read about the terrific game played by the lacrosse squad there, which is TMZ's loss because it was the best game of lacrosse this team's played in a long time.  Considering the strength of the opponent, probably all season.  No, scratch that: definitely the best game of the year.  Go down the list and check off the indicators.  Faceoffs, ground balls, clearing, goalie play - all near-flawless.  Terrific discpline.  The defense allowing just two goals and muddling the opposition offense by switching from man to zone and back.

Besides the yeoman defensive effort, the best thing about the game was the offense.  Certainly it was the most refreshing.  Eight minutes into the game you could see the difference in the offense without either Bratton twin on the field.  There was passing.  Sometimes, like, two or three passes in a row.  Or more!  It made the offense fun to watch again.  My favorite statistic of the game was not the two allowed goals; it was the 8 assists on 11 goals scored.  This team has had fewer assists on its goals - barely over 50% - than any in recent memory, which if you ask me was a cause of problems.  It was holding the team back.  Even without the Brattons' athleticism this'll be a harder team to defend if the defenses actually have to give a damn about all six attackers.  I don't know if the awesome defensive effort can continue - Penn's offense isn't the strength of their team - but I've got my optimism restored in the offense at least.

Without the Brattons it's an awfully thin midfield, and Dom Starsia was in an experimental mood with the second offensive midfield.  John Haldy, Rob Emery, and Colin Briggs are the first group, and that's a group that's been on the field a lot this year and they acquitted themselves well in the spotlight.  Several folks not usually seen on the field in actual situations made their appearances. The second midfield was typically Kugler, Harbeson, and once-upon-a-time attackman Mark Cockerton, but even faceoff specialist Garrett Ince got in on the action, scoring a rare goal, just the fifth of his career.  A fine display of team lacrosse.

Our tournament fate is now out of our hands.  That was one last bid to the tournament committee to host a game; Villanova and Maryland are our two biggest competitors in that regard and they each have a game left, albeit neither against an opponent of Penn's caliber.  As you'll see in my tournament bracketology I have UVA as an 8 seed hosting a game; that means realistically we're on the bubble for it.  With Syracuse probably awaiting the winner of the 8 seed's game, it might almost be to our benefit to go on the road against a 7 or even a 6 seed.  Tougher first game, easier path to Baltimore for the championships. And I guarantee you if Villanova or Denver gets their first-ever chance to host a tournament game they're not gonna want to see Virginia headed their way.


The baseball team lost a game this weekend (oh NOEZ) but it didn't matter because they earned their 13th and 14th shutouts of the year to bookend the loss and picked up a game in the standings anyway (oh yayz) because Georgia Tech lost their series to Clemson.  (Grumble grumble those are the only Tigers that can be said to be hitting well and no I'm not complaining about LSU.)  Friday was an especially outstanding day: the offense generated 18 hits, 17 runs, and Danny Hultzen and Shane Halley combined to allow one walk, one hit (a squib swinging bunt), and struck out 11, eight of which were Danny's.  It's this kind of thing which makes losing one of the three OK.

At 42-5 it's been pretty well established at this point who the best team in the ACC is, and you are well within your rights to brush off the Saturday loss and any loss between now and the postseason with the words "well, that's just baseball."  That's why the NCAA tourney is double-elimination and they have seven-game series in the pros.  From here on out every shutout is a conference record, every Steven Proscia RBI is a team record (he broke through with the record on Friday), and every Danny Hultzen strikeout is also a team record.

The team now sits two games ahead of Georgia Tech - a de facto three game lead - and has one game left (on the road at VCU) before exam break.  I hate exam break but it's a very necessary evil.  After that are a series against Miami and one against North Carolina, so there'll be no shortage of quality competition to keep the team sharp for the ACC tournament and beyond.


Normally I devote a whole column to the future prospects of our NFL draftees, but there's only one of them and the lockout prevents any free-agent signings, so this'll have to do.  The Patriots pissed me off by selecting Ras-I Dowling as the first pick of the second round, setting off a run on cornerbacks that kept them all (particularly Dowling) out of the Lions' hands.  I wanted Dowling dammit.  Anyway, he's a Patriot.  The Pats had Devin McCourty selected to the Pro Bowl as a rookie last year, and there are some decent veterans in Kyle Arrington and Leigh Bodden on the roster.  (Then again, Bodden was cut loose by the Lions after his one season there going 0-16, so how much competition can he be?)  Dowling is highly unlikely to jump right into the starting lineup, but he should at least get a chance to show what he can do (and show that he can stay healthy) as a nickel corner.

I don't know what I'm going to do with myself without either lacrosse or baseball this weekend.  I may roll out a mid-week bracketology if events warrant, otherwise there'll be one more before the selection show on Sunday at 9.

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