Virginia Not Ready for Emotional Season to End
by Chris R. Vaccaro | Special to Lacrosse Magazine Online
STONY BROOK, N.Y. – For Virginia’s men's lacrosse team to fly to Long Island and be the home team is odd. It’s just another added dimension in the midst of a strange few weeks for the Cavaliers, who might well have benefited from the 400-mile trip then staying in Charlottesville.
And while they missed graduation Sunday afternoon, they were busy doing the only thing they know how – winning.
In front of 10,024 fans at Stony Brook University’s Kenneth P. LaValle’s Stadium, the Cavaliers (16-1) used every last bit of energy to beat the ferocious and home crowd-charged Seawolves (13-4), 10-9.
“A game like this, in a stadium like this, against this team will help us,” said Virginia head coach Dom Starsia.
The first rule of Project Mayhem: don't ask questions.
Virginia isn’t just playing for itself on the lacrosse field now. The Cavaliers women lost to North Carolina in the NCAA tournament over the weekend. An entire university -- let alone country -- is keeping tabs on the program's recovery from the damaging effects of the George Huguely-Yeardley Love tragedy. Huguely, a former UVA men's lacrosse midfielder, has been charged with first-degree murder in the death of Love, a former UVA women's lacrosse defender.
In this stretch of the season, the men’s lacrosse team is the emotional and statistical favorite to win it all, despite the toll the events of the last three weeks have taken.
“It’s added emotion,” said Virginia goalie Adam Ghitelman of the women’s team losing to UNC. “Everything we do now has an edge. You really want to win for them.”
Virginia opened the game strong, taking a 4-1 lead into the second quarter. Stony Brook had other ideas, however.
“It was a classic team that hasn’t been in this situation before,” said Seawolves head coach Rick Sowell. “There are going to be emotions and anxieties. It was a classic new-kids-on-the-block moment.”
Ironically, Stony Brook dominated the stat sheet. It won in ground balls (32-38) and shots (36-29), and Adam Rand stole 18 of 23 draws from the faceoff circle.
Aside from being No. 1 in the nation and possessing some of the best lacrosse players in the country, there was something else dangling in front of Virginia’s horse-drawn carriage. It goes beyond pride, beyond winning for a title and further than any expectation that can be fulfilled.
To play in honor of a fallen friend is unlike anything many have had to deal with. To do it on the road, the same day many of your classmates are graduating, against a team that calls LaValle Stadium home is an entirely surreal challenge.
“There is no team that has better athletes or moves the ball faster than Virginia,” said Sowell.
Even if heavy hearts weight it down.
“Playing for the girls' team and playing for Yeardley has been on our minds,” said Tewaaraton Trophy hopeful Ken Clausen. “We’re not ready for this to end yet.”
Duke, a team that's no stranger to playing under the microscope or for redemptive purposes, will have its hands full Saturday against Virginia in the final four.
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