Monday, March 26, 2012

weekend review

Which do you want first, the good news or the bad news?  Bad news it is, and that means lacrosse.  UVA surrendered its #1 ranking this weekend by surrendering an overtime goal to Johns Hopkins.  As was only fitting with the direction of that game, it happened with five seconds to go.

The final sequence of the game was laced with some of the finest examples of traded attempts to give away a game that I have ever seen.  Hopkins, with a golden opportunity to win the game in regulation, was called for offsides and followed it up with a too-many-men penalty.  UVA, for its part, decided to wait out the penalty in order to guarantee first possession of overtime (a strategy I disagreed with) and then watched as Rob Emery allowed a routine pass to sail over his stick, handing possession right back.  Hopkins didn't actually want it, but another too-many-men penalty - this one on UVA - forced them to actually try and take a shot to win.  And so it went until John Ranagan of Hopkins said to hell with it and potted the game-winner just to spare the crowd the agony of watching another overtime play out like that.

What will give the Hoos confidence should there be a tournament rematch is this: Hopkins hardly ever scored in settled situations.  Rob Fortunato's brilliance in net may have had something to do with it.  Hopkins scored 11 goals, and I count at least seven in "special" situations; three man-up goals, two directly off faceoffs, and at least two fast breaks that I can remember.  Six-on-six, offense vs. defense, the UVA defense was outstanding.

The offense, yes and no.  Some nice plays, but I think the story of the game ultimately is the UVA failure to capitalize on chances.  10 goals in 32 chances - that's a good number against the Hop defense but a bad one for the UVA offense, and you can't pile on mistakes and expect a team like Hopkins not to take advantage.  The one that sticks out most prominently is a pass to someone all alone in front of the goal (Bocklet?  Briggs?  Can't remember exactly) from behind the net in semi-transition.  The pass was in the dirt, and was scooped by Hopkins and instead of a two-goal lead, it was tied five seconds later.

At any rate, the #1 seed is now out of the picture, and fine whatever, We Don't Want That Bullseye Anyway and all that.  The ACC season is upon us, with some opportunities to do some major damage.  It is now Hit A Terp With A Stick Week, which is my way of saying it's time to play Maryland, and you know how it is here at Maryland: we don't lose to Virginia.  So they have that going for them, especially in things like football and baseball and basketball and whatnot.  Maryland will go in slightly shorthanded after this little altercation that forced us to miss the first five minutes of our game while the refs decided who exactly should be ejected.  Maryland's #41 in that video - the guy who delivered the cross-check, and shortly thereafter several punches, to a Tar Heel's head - is second-line midfielder Kevin Cooper, who'll miss the UVA game by NCAA statute that requires a one-game suspension for players ejected for fighting.  This isn't exactly Cornell minus Rob Pannell, but they did seem to think enough of Cooper to have him out there for the game's crucial furious-rally moments.  I don't care enough to get involved in the debate between There's No Place For That In Lacrosse and He's A Classy Kid Who Got Caught Up In The Moment - I simply enjoy watching players from our next opponent, regardless of who it is, remove themselves from our game with them.

Ultimately, though, the impact of Cooper's suspension on the UVA game is likely to be so negligible as to be not worth analyzing.  Unless for some reason the NCAA suspends both Carolina's and Maryland's entire team - except for the guys currently on the field - for leaving the bench.  That'd be fun if it happened, which it won't.


Fortunately, the baseball weekend went a lot better, with a sweep over now 3-6 Clemson.  I fear I may have overrated the Tigers in my season preview; they have no hitting, and in my humble estimation the wrong pitchers are in the starting rotation.  The bottom of the order is terrible, and the bottom starts at like #5.  The one guy who should have been bashing - third baseman Richie Shaffer - went zero-for-three-games with four strikeouts.

The stories of each of the three games were, in order, Jared King, Branden Kline, and Jason Stolz's absolutely terrible bunt.  (This is why Brian O'Connor's philosophy is you don't play if you can't bunt.)  Said bunt was representative of UVA's fielding cutting down Clemson's chances and limiting them to one run in the innings they did score, when they could've had more.  UVA turned, on Sunday, some unorthodox double plays, including 3-6-3, 1-6-3, and most notably, 1-6; the latter was Stolz's popped-up bunt to Austin Young, who then doubled off the baserunner at second that had no business not already diving the hell back to the bag when that bunt went upwards in the first place.

The starting pitching was outstanding all weekend, especially Saturday's starter, Kline.  To start the game, Kline allowed a triple and a sac fly, and then nine innings of zeroes save for one scratch single.  That's how you earn ACC Pitcher of the Week.  (That article notes that UVA leads all teams with 23 Pitcher of the Week awards in the last nine years.  If I were less lazy I would find out how many of them are Danny Hultzen.  I bet the answer lies somewhere between "several" and "many.")

It's also how you earn the confidence of every observer, including the ones that matter and make the decisions.  Artie Lewicki was also strong on Sunday, and if that kind of thing continues and Whit Mayberry comes back strong from his elbow issues, the Hoos will have four solid starters, a prerequisite for serious contention in postseason play.  I don't think there'll ever be a group that holds a candle to what we had last year - for crying out loud the third-best guy was the one who threw the perfect game - but this group of four, if pitching up to their actual reachable potential, is the kind of group that launches you to postseason overachievement.

UVA has two games against Towson this week, and then a very tough weekend matchup looms against NC State.  The Wolfpack always seem to have our number, and the games are on the road, and that's a tough team this year that took two of three from Georgia Tech, swept the halfway-decent Wake Forest, and threatens tonight to also take a series from North Carolina.


The latest hilarious googletubes rumor is the idea of Seth Greenberg going to SMU - remember they will be in the Biggish Eastish next year as part of that conference's master plan to to dilute the everloving piss out of their basketball product - to replace the lately fired Matt Doherty. (As the guy who led North Carolina all the way to the NIT and took the SMU program from 11th place in a 12-team conference to 11th place in a 12-team conference, Doherty's skills will no doubt be in high demand.  In, like, Estonia.)  I don't put any stock in the idea really; unless there's a huge pay raise involved or Greenberg just loves Dallas, that job would be a huge step down.  Even from VT.  Still, the idea is sobering.  The day Greenberg is no longer in charge in Blacksburg will be a sad one at the FOV offices.  Greenberg's style is enjoyable if you're rooting against the Hokies; his teams are undisciplined and just this side of unwatchable most of the time, and he's always good for some quotes when the tournament committee once again deems VT the 39th-best at-large team in the country, out of 37 actual tourney entrants.  That said, he's an excellent recruiter.  Unless they're paying lottery jackpot money, I'm very skeptical of the Hokies' ability to find a coach, when the time comes, that can match Greenberg's success.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Big weekend battle in baseball. To get to the tourny, they need to win a lot of series. That said, if Kline pitches the way he has of late (not expecting another CG of course, just strong outings ... and he's doing a nice job rebuilding his draft stock), and Mayberry is back, we have the depth in the staff to make a run if the offense can string together hits (and if the defense can be sound). The positive side is that it feels like some of the young hitters are hitting their strides.

Going to be interesting. This was always a rebuilding year for baseball, but it would be nice if we could sneak into the tourny.