There's so much to be said about the fifth national title in UVA lacrosse history that it's hard to know which should come first. How about we start with Dom Starsia, since his is the evaluation I seem to have screwed up the most? Contrary to the idea that his career is tailing off, Coach Starsia pulled off what might well be his best season of coaching ever. He changed up his whole philosophy. This year he couldn't out-athlete the competition like he likes to do, so he shuffled players around, implemented a zone defense, and he and his crew of assistants got together and figured out how to change the offense from a one-man-at-a-time show to a working machine. This season I've harped on the unsustainability of having more than half your goals be unassisted; Inside Lacrosse points out that in the four tournament games, 74% of UVA's goals had an assist attached to them. This is more fun to watch by far, more successful, and ultimately the result of a focus by the coaching staff to make a concerted change in the way the offense attacks the net. You could brush that off and claim it was forced upon them by the removal of the Brattons from the equation, but you and I both know that not every coach is savvy enough to know he needs to radically switch gears and talented enough to make it work.
And on top of it, Starsia, as evidenced by his interviews and the things the mike caught him saying to his team ("now go shake their hands, they deserve it") is as classy an individual as any that we have coaching here.
So there's one kind of leadership for you. Then you have the players, especially captain Bray Malphrus, that got their teammates together and demanded accountability. Malphrus is one of the team's captains, along with John Haldy, Adam Ghitelman, and Steele Stanwick. Would this team be here without the leadership they brought? I'd venture to say no. The season would've ended early, probably in the first round, the team would have an unheard of six losses, and the only narrative would be about how the whole thing fell apart after last year's drama. The laid-back Haldy is the perfect foil for the fiery and hyper-competitive Malphrus, and the combination was precisely the medicine this team needed after last year's troubles and another heartbreaking loss to nemesis Duke. Malphrus plans to kick terrorist ass in the military after graduation and I'd say he'll do very, very well in the military environs. Next year's team will have little trouble filling in the gaps on the field left when these seniors depart (and that's meant as a compliment to the rest of the team, not a knock on the seniors) but they'll need to make a very concerted effort to fill the leadership gaps.
If there's one on-field hole to fill next year, it'll be in net. It seems like Ghitelman's been in there forever, and he took some real lumps early on from disapproving fans. But he leaves UVA as the NCAA's third-winningest goalie of all time with 50 victories. In a way I'm especially happy to see Ghitelman get this trophy because it'd be a shame to be that good for four years and come away empty-handed in the trophy department.
Other things I think:
- Steele Stanwick was held almost completely off the scoresheet, but with 20 points in the previous three games, he's made the Tewaaraton voting awfully interesting. There's a school of thought that says no Final Four = no Tewaaraton for you, and Stanwick was the only candidate on the field in Baltimore. That he got there by wildly outplaying the previous prohibitive favorite, Cornell's Rob Pannell, makes it even tougher to vote against him. The trophy will be awarded Thursday. If Stanwick doesn't win it won't be a travesty of justice, but if he does it won't be a shock any more.
- Crystal ball time: In February you learn that UVA will make it to the championship game in Baltimore. (That would've saved a lot of gnashing of teeth in April.) In that game:
- You'll see zero goals from Rhamel Bratton, Shamel Bratton, Steele Stanwick, or Chris Bocklet, and the only goal scorers at all will be Colin Briggs, Matt White, and Nick O'Reilly,
- UVA will lose the faceoff battle 12-7,
- UVA will also lose the groundballs battle and be outshot,
- Top defender Matt Lovejoy will be out from shoulder surgery,
- UVA will be shut out in the first quarter
- I didn't hear any major horror stories from people in the overwhelmingly pro-Terp crowd in Baltimore. John Tillman seems like a stand-up guy and the Maryland team doesn't seem to act too bad. Admittedly the Terps probably had at least as good a reason for neutral fans to root for them as we did, maybe better. And it was cool to have an all-ACC final. Still, it never hurts to have the occasional reminder that Maryland fans can be the shittiest dickbags this earth has ever seen.
- I'll have a whole separate post on 2012 lax in the not-far-off future. National championships have a way of brightening the future.
It wasn't too bad a redemption story for the baseball team, either, erasing all memory of that final-week sweep by Carolina by winning the ACC title. And not the cheap way, either: a 4-0 weekend. Because of tiebreakers, the Hoos had locked up a spot in the title game against FSU before the Saturday rematch against Carolina, so, as predicted, Danny Hultzen was held back til Sunday and Cody Winiarski pitched against UNC. And won anyway.
Then UVA picked up a 7-2 victory against FSU in a very decidedly non-UVA fashion: by smacking home runs. All seven runs came that way. This caused the FSU Rivals site to go all George Washington on us, mixed in with a little just-a-couple-plays-away Pete Hughes action: their description of the game was, "Three bad pitches." Seminole starter Hunter Scantling echoed the "two bad pitches" line, except what he actually said was "one bad pitch" instead, which I guess means that when John Barr was hit by a pitch to put him on base ahead of Proscia's jack, that was a good pitch.
Proscia was the tournament MVP, by the way, on account of hitting that home run that would turn out to be a game-winner, and going 7-for-16 on the weekend. Kenny Swab and Chris Taylor also made the all-tournament team, and Tyler Wilson was left off for reasons I can only assume involve it not being fair that UVA would have so many players on the team. UNC's Patrick Johnson made it instead, for doing the exact same thing Wilson did (mow down Wake Forest) except without the part where Wilson also burned through Florida State in relief. In the championship game. So that makes sense.
So the Hoos get the autobid to the NCAA tournament, I guess, but the #1 seed label means they probably didn't need it. (Y'know....probably.) They'll see some familiar faces in the Charlottesville regional: East Carolina, an OOC opponent the last two years; St. John's, which comes to Davenport for regional play for the second year in a row; and Navy, which actually isn't all that familiar but wutever. You might think that our old buddy Tim Weiser finally did us a solid by giving us the #1 seed, but you'd be wrong: assuming UVA makes it out of its own regional, Weiser handed the Hoos Pac-10 champ UCLA and their rotation of doom (with potential #1 pick Gerrit Cole) as a likely opponent. THANKS DOOD
The baseball win gives UVA five ACC champeenships for the year, which ties us with Maryland for the season's most with five. Our five: men's tennis, rowing, baseball, and men's and women's swimming and diving. This is as good a time as any to brag about Virginia's ACC dominance. In the years since ACC expansion (so, starting with the 2004-2005 season), here's the rundown of schools and their ACC championships:
- Virginia - 37
- FSU - 26
- Duke - 25
- UNC - 21
- Maryland - 16
- Ga. Tech - 14
- Va. Tech - 11
- Clemson - 8
- NC State - 6
- Miami - 5
- Wake Forest - 5
- Boston College - 1
- 6 each: Men's swimming & diving; men's tennis; rowing
- 4: Women's swimming & diving
- 3 each: Men's cross country; women's lacrosse
- 2 each: Baseball; men's lacrosse; men's soccer
- 1 each: Men's outdoor track & field; women's soccer; wrestling
- In each of the last seven years, only one of them saw another ACC school pick up more championships than Virginia.
- That year was 2006-2007, when UVA had three. That's the lowest total in any of the seven seasons, but every other school has had at least one year of just two or fewer.
- UVA has otherwise picked up at least five in each season.
- UVA's six ACC championships in 2008-2009 and 2007-2008 would be the highest single-season total for any school in the expansion age - nobody else has ever had more than five - but....
- UVA broke that record in 2009-2010 with seven ACC titles.
Busy week coming up, what with overdue recruiting board updates, and I also can't wait for the customary introduction to our latest basketball recruit, Justin Anderson. Justin Anderson is the five-star we stole from Maryland, and I'll probably never get tired of using that phrase and may eventually just abbreviate it TFSWSFM because that is just so damn catchy.
But it's even more important that you know this: June 8 is the official Blog Birthday, marking three years of service to the Wahoo community. That's a week from tomorrow. Around these parts we celebrate birthdays by giving out presents, not receiving them, and that means the 3rd annual Cavalier of the Year Award. In the near future, I'll unveil the 12 nominees that I think are most deserving of recognition as the top Virginia athlete of the year. Over the course of a couple weeks, I'll profile each and tell you why they're on the list, and then you the fans will have the privilege of voting on the winner. There's no awards ceremony, trophy presentation, or scholarship donation in the name of the winner (yet - the 20th annual award will be a black-tie affair, you just wait and see.) For now, just a goofy Photoshop. But the voting is fun.