Starting with lacrosse, where the Hoos played a game that's Exhibit A in the case of "why UVA will be considered the bottom of the ACC barrel next year until they prove otherwise." The good guys looked sloppy, and were bailed out by the mighty power of Steele Stanwick. Stanwick scored six goals and added an assist to push his PPG average over five. This dude is something else, and could do no wrong on Friday. Even his "post up a guy then fake-flip the ball to a teammate" trick, which never works, finally worked.
The rest of the team? Well, I'll exempt Chris Clements for now, who did a very admirable job. Clements picked up a short stick again (which is how he started off his career) and filled in at SSDM for Chris LaPierre, who sat the game with a shoulder injury. I don't think LaPierre was desperately missed (though he will be against better teams) except in the the realm of ground balls. Ayyy. There was no sense of urgency in picking up ground balls, not until the fourth quarter. One Penn goal came about four seconds after a defenseman - Scott McWilliams, I believe - just left a ball sitting on the turf and chased a Penn attackman instead. Pretty sure he thought that guy had the ball himself. No excuse for not knowing where the ball is, though.
Even when we had the ball in our possession, we didn't seem too interested in keeping it that way. Shot selection was lame. Chris Bocklet is the main culprit that I remember, but he wasn't the only one. Made some poor decisions that sent harmless beach balls at Penn's goalie Brian Feeney. And it went both ways: Penn did everything but put up bright neon signs daring Mark Cockerton to shoot with his right hand, and he refused. Obviously he's not too keen on that side, but this summer would be a very good time to work on that. Heck, Friday would've been a very good time to work on that. Even as uncomfortable right-handed as he clearly is, I can't believe a D-I athlete's shot is that bad that he couldn't have potted a goal that way, as open as they left his right side.
Then you had about three or four clean interceptions, way too many. Rob Fortunato slinged a pass at a Penn rider that was so perfectly executed my only explanation is he brainfarted and forgot we were wearing blue uniforms. Of course the ball ended up behind him three seconds later.
So the break is coming at a good time - mentally, and because of LaPierre's shoulder bangup. And it seems clear that Stanwick isn't quite healthy either. Unless he just gets up slowly every time he's knocked to the ground because he wants to. All that's left is to take final exams and wait for the rest of the conference tourneys to play themselves out, and find out our first-round opponent this Sunday.
However, while I was gnawing my fingernails over the lax team, the diamond nine was restoring my faith. Two very nice wins Saturday and Sunday have put the Hoos in position to potentially sweep Miami - at Miami.
On Saturday, Branden Kline had one of his effectively wild outings, walking five and striking out eight. A 40-some minute rain delay messed with both pitchers; Kline was pulled after 120 pitches in only five innings, and Miami starter Eric Erickson pitched one inning too long; the UVA bats opened up on him in the sixth.
On Sunday, for the second week in a row Shane Halley pitched six innings in relief of Scott Silverstein, leading to the obvious question of why don't we just start Halley if that's how the game is gonna turn out. Such a decision may be on the horizon, but I don't think Silverstein's time as a starter is quite done yet. At any rate, he gave up four runs in the second - half of which got on base via walk in the first place - and Halley took it from there, shutting down the Miami bats and giving ours a chance to pull back in the game. Which they did, in a big way. Our bats have struggled against good pitching and bombed everything else, so it's nice to see them tee off on good pitching now, too.
Let's not forget Miami's role in all this. I told you they were crummy fielders and they've upheld that statement beyond my wildest dreams, committing four errors on Saturday and five more on Sunday. UVA scored seven runs in each of the first two games and of that total of 14, only three are earned runs. That's amazing. Not to say we haven't been hitting, but we have been timing our hits well. Gotta put them together. (And let's not forget that baseball has nutty rules about what's an earned run; one error can taint the whole thing. If there are two outs and you commit an error and then give up a billion runs afterwards, they're all unearned on the theory that the inning would otherwise have been over.)
Still: nine errors in two games. That's a lot of help. Ain't complaining, though: win tonight and I'll revive my 18-wins goal. Even better: our RPI is 15th in the country. That puts us in the back end of the regional-hosting discussion. Do I think we will? Still nope. But the chance is there. And even if we don't we got a great shot at being that pain-in-the-ass two seed that nobody wants in their regional. I would not be surprised, for example, to see us trucked to Columbia, South Carolina. (Unless Tim Weiser is still calling the shots, in which case, Fullerton here we come.)
-- Phillip Sims is coming to UVA. Doug Doubt-y says it ain't so, at least not yet, but I don't know why I even mention that because there's no reason to pay attention to it. We're past the point of no return with this one. This went from bullshit rumor to actual rumor to actual happening so fast that I barely had time to process it. People have different ideas of what a "done deal" actually is, anyway. This is what I call a done deal.
I'm the last Hoo blogger to mention this, but I've always said I'm in the business of commentary, not breaking news. (And not even "business", really, since that would imply I've ever made a cent off doing this.) I did write a significant chunk of commentary. It got to be too significant. It's now a separate post all its own - tomorrow's. I'm afraid you'll have to wait til then to read it. That's what we call a teaser.
-- Virginia Tech has a new basketball coach: James Johnson, the assistant who left for Clemson less than a month ago and who probably, in doing so, helped get Seth Greenberg fired in the first place. I spent a ton of time on VT basketball last week and I don't want to bother doing so again, so Streaking the Lawn's piece on Johnson is good enough for me. No sense in me rehashing it, which is all I'd have done anyway. Go read that.
-- Man, the WAC is completely falling apart. UTSA hasn't even played a down of I-A football in their lives and C-USA has already poached them. It's funny how there used to be this 16-team WAC, then it branched out into the MWC and the WAC, and then all the good teams left the MWC and now the MWC is basically the WAC again.
-- Playoff talk abounds. I'm gonna hold off most of my opinions til they actually settle on something and then I can poke holes in it. Half of me thinks its funny that we used to have basically a two-team playoffs and now they're adding to two teams to that and saying "look everyone, a playoff!" and everyone's going "yay! (or boo!) a playoff!" as if it's really all that different. The other half of me says it really is that different, because four teams leads to six and six leads to eight and eight leads to twelve and twelve leads to sixteen and this is the same organization that floated the idea of a 96-team basketball tournament so don't you dare doubt me.
I'll leave you with this thought: I've told you for a long time that most of the playoff advocates are gonna be awfully disappointed with the result, because the same people who bring you the BCS that you hate are the ones who'll bring you your playoff. So don't expect anything brilliant. In fact, expect stupidity. The proof is in the pudding, summed up here and in this one quote:
[BCS director] Bill Hancock wonders if college football stadiums have the infrastructure to host college football games.