UVa Posts Win In NCAA Opener
May 15, 2010
Ken Clausen and the defense allowed just two goals through the first three quarters.
When the Virginia men's lacrosse team decided to continue its season following the tragic death of women's lacrosse player Yeardley Love and the arrest of former men's player George Huguely on first-degree murder charges, no one could be certain how the Cavaliers would perform in the NCAA Tournament. On Saturday night, for the first round at least, the Hoos played as well as they have all season in an 18-4 victory against Mount St. Mary's.
UVa captain Ken Clausen answered reporters' questions about the emotions of the past two weeks and the shock of hearing the news.
"Obviously extremely shocked," Clausen said with his eyes welling up before pausing to gather himself. "You don't really know what to think in a situation like that. The team has done a great job coming together. I think our ability to stick together as a team and lean on each other and lean on the coaches and have the coaches lean on us and have great support from the University has really helped us get through a very tough situation."
So while members of both lacrosse programs at Virginia continue to work through the emotions following the tragedy, this weekend included a return to the field for the NCAA Tournament. On Saturday night, the Cavaliers managed to focus on the contest with Mount St. Mary's well enough to roll to a 14-goal win.
"I thought we settled in and I thought you witnessed a team that was very glad to be back on the field again, excited to be playing, and ultimately probably played almost as well as we've played all year," UVa coach Dom Starsia said. "It certainly would have been hard to predict that they were capable of putting that kind of performance together based on what practice has been like the couple days."
Indeed, the Cavaliers clicked both offensively and defensively. And it happened quickly. Goalkeeper Adam Ghitelman made a handful of early saves and finished with 5 in the first period alone. Offensively, it took the Hoos just 3:02 to post a goal as Shamel Bratton started his dodging run from near midfield, slipped to the left side and fired home the shot for a 1-0 lead. Seconds later Mount St. Mary's goalkeeper T.C. DiBartolo brought the ball out toward near midfield as part of a clearing attempt where Matt White stick-checked the ball free; Steele Stanwick, who had a huge night, scooped it up and barreled toward the box before throwing the ball into the empty cage for a 2-0 lead at 11:31.
Steele Stanwick had 5 assists as the Hoos passed the ball well in the win.
Throughout the rest of the half, it was a lot like listening to your favorite song on repeat when it first comes out. Every couple of minutes, the Cavaliers - and several took turns with the cameo moments - came up with some stops and some goals to surge to the 12-1 edge at halftime. At intermission, Brian Carroll had 3 goals and 1 assist while Shamel Bratton had 2 goals and 2 assists. Stanwick posted 1 goal and 4 assists in the first half alone.
"I was actually really excited because the first time we played them, we didn't play to our ability and I thought we had a good chance to have a great game. They blew me away with how well they played tonight - making shots from the top of the box," Mount St. Mary's defender Matt Nealis said. "I just wish it had gone a little better."
Much of the Hoos' offensive success came from sharp passing and smart cutting by players off the ball. On a goal at 8:39 of the first quarter, Bratton caught a ball near the top of the box and started to settle into an apparent shooting motion only to fake the shot and dump off the pass to Chris Bocklet waiting alone on the doorstep for an easy goal. At 3:13 in the first quarter, Stanwick carried the ball behind the cage before finding John Haldy waiting alone in the middle for an easy score. At 14:37 in the second quarter, Stanwick dished out another goal when he ran toward the cage and pitched out the ball for a drive-and-kick style assist to Bocklet. Finally, the Hoos moved the ball around the horn crisply on two first-half Extra Man Opportunities; on the first, Stanwick stood up top and dropped the ball in the middle to Carroll for a turn-around goal and on the second, Bratton ended up alone on the right wing for a high heater that gave UVa an 11-1 lead.
Despite liberally playing subs in the second half, the Cavaliers added six more goals as the precise ball movement continued throughout the third quarter. In the end, Virginia posted 12 assists on the 18 goals scored. Stanwick led the way with 5 assists.
"I thought we played really well today actually. It seemed like forever since we've been out there playing. I think everyone was excited to get out there and this was our seniors last game at Klockner so everyone was real excited to play and I thought we played well," Carroll said. "We were moving the ball well. We were drawing the doubles and moving it well so people are going to get open shots."
Defensively, even when Mount St. Mary's did create quality opportunities - and that didn't happen often - Ghitelman simply proved too tough a riddle to solve. From the opening moments of the game, it was apparent that he was seeing the ball clearly and that he had a locked in sense of focus on every shot. Consequently, the Mountaineers never really had a chance to get into the game.
Ghitelman posted 9 saves on 23 MSM shots
"I thought Adam played very well early. I actually thought the goalies at both ends of the field played very well throughout," Starsia said. "Adam kept them off the board early in the game, might have changed the beginning of the game certainly or the way it started."
Of course, the outcome of the game isn't all that important. Both Starsia and women's coach Julie Myers have said that their teams just want to stay together for as long as possible this month as they try to help each other cope. The two teams are close to one another as well; several men's players served as pallbearers at Love's funeral last weekend, including Clausen. "Yeardley was one of my best friends and to be asked to do that meant a whole lot to me," Clausen said. "That was really something special."
So the two teams are supporting each other after Love's death. That support system continues this weekend as the women's first round NCAA Tournament game against Towson is set for Sunday at noon. When asked if they would be at that contest, Carroll, and others, didn't hesitate.
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