Virginia-North Carolina Observations
Virginia's 11-10 overtime victory Saturday over ACC rival North Carolina was chock full of intriguing storylines surrounding the Cavaliers -- from the return of Shamel Bratton to the breaking news of Matt Lovejoy's season-ending shoulder surgery to the rough midseason stretch that could have easily gotten worse. That's the sense you got, anyhow, when Virginia's three-goal lead evaporated in the final three minutes and North Carolina corralled the opening possession of overtime.
But the Wahoos held strong on defense, and Steele Stanwick sidestepped a flailing Charlie McComas on the other end to score the game-winning goal. More observations from Saturday's game:
Virginia's zone defense
After a slow start, both teams' offenses caught on fire late in the second quarter with five goals in two minutes. Virginia never trailed in the game. But UNC's contributions to the scoring flurry must have signaled something to the Cavaliers' coaching staff, because UVA dropped into a zone. It worked well for the Wahoos. They typically play a riskier brand of defense, but there were holes in that 'D' even before Lovejoy, the top cover man, went down. When Carolina tried to flood the zone with skip passes, Virginia had an army of sticks in the lane to bat them down.
Pride of Rhode Island
Bratton came off the bench to score a goal, but his return also sprung Colin Briggs free of long-pole coverage. Briggs has come on strong this year and has drawn comparisons to the last great Rhode Island product to make it big in Charlottesville – Chris Rotelli. More performances like Saturday's (3g, 2a) won't make those comparisons go away anytime soon.
What were you thinking, Rhamel?
Ironic that Rhamel Bratton, whose "lacrosse IQ" was praised repeatedly by ESPN analyst Quint Kessenich during Saturday's broadcast, was the Virginia player who inexplicably gave away not one, but two possessions with ill-advised shots – turnover-type shots that ultimately allowed North Carolina to come back and tie the game in the waning minutes. Virginia could use some discipline on the field, too. A three-goal lead with three minutes left should be safe with the ball in the stick of a senior. It wasn't.
Patience is a virtue
On the other hand, you would expect a young offense like UNC's to be trigger-happy when trailing by a goal in the final minute. To the contrary, the Tar Heels' patient approach to the final possession was a thing of beauty. They communicated to the very end, with Thomas Wood telling Jimmy Dunster to draw his defender up near the restraining line, then calling for the feed on the wing. Wood then took his time, threw two fakes and scored the game-tying goal with six seconds remaining.
Footing at Klockner
It rained Friday going into Saturday, leaving the field at Klockner Stadium saturated. Players slipped and slid on several occasions, none more visible than when McComas came out to guard Stanwick behind the cage in overtime and did a whoopsy-daisy that allowed Stanwick to go to goal and score fairly easily. Kind of an anticlimactic end to a great game.