UVA: There's Always Lacrosse Season

Ben GibsonSenior Analyst IFebruary 11, 2009

There has been no joy in Charlottesville for a long time.

The football program has an anemic offense.

The basketball program has an anemic offense and lazy defense.

So Virginia fans have been given a steady diet of losing these past four months, something that is almost as sickening as contaminated peanut butter.

Well have no fear, lacrosse season is here!

That's right, Virginia may never be the best football or basketball team in the country, but they are damn good with a lacrosse stick in their hands.

Virginia lax has won three national championships in the past ten years.

Sure it's lacrosse, but how many schools have three national championships total in their trophy cases?

The Cavaliers, having lost to Syracuse in the national semifinals last year in double-overtime, enter this season as the preseason number one team in the country.

Makes sense when you consider that Virginia is bringing back their top two leading scorers in Danny Glading and Garret Billings.

Both men are seniors and Glading will probably be a finalist for the Tewaarton Trophy which is awarded to the MVP at the end of the year for his well-rounded offensive aresenal.

Virginia also has returning phenoms Shamel and Rhamel Bratton.

These two guys had more buzz than a Chris Brown beat down of Rihanna...well maybe.

Still, these guys have amazing potential and even though their first year was not all-star caliber, they showed us glimpses last year against arch-rival Johns Hopkins.

The Brattons had five of Virginia's thirteen goals in that overtime thriller, including the game-winning assist that Brian Carroll was able to rocket into the back of the net.

This sophomore year could be a breakout year for the two after taking the time adjusting to college and the aggressive play Virginia utilizes.

Add to this line-up another highly touted recruit in Steele Stanwick (whose sister at Georgetown was an all-star herself) and you have quite a potent attack.

Still, Virginia has always had one of the top offenses in the country year in and year out.

Their fast-paced style makes going to a lacrosse game a must see event in Charlottesville.

Still, Virginia's head coach Dom Starsia knows that for the Cavaliers to bring home their first national championship since 2006, they will need their defense to step up in the big games.

Last year, Virginia's goalie Adam Ghitelman went through some severe growing pains.  He even lost his starting job to fifth-year senior Bud Petit after the debacle against Duke where the Blue Devils steam-rolled the Cavaliers at home.

Still, Ghitelman apparently has gotten some of his confidence back after a tremendous effort this summer as the goalie for the U.S. Under 19 Team.

Starsia mentioned he looks like a completely different player and if his confidence remains high, Virginia should be the team to beat.

Ghitelman will have a good supporting cast as Virginia has developed some impressive depth at long-stick.

Virginia's defense in 2006 was so tenacious because of the leadership of Michael Culver, someone the Cavaliers are still trying to replace for his poise and leadership on the field.

His heir apparent, Ricky Smith, was passionate but that sometimes led to foolish decisions made when he was frustrated.

It's hard to lead the team when you also lead them in penalty minutes.

His replacement, Ken Clausen, is slowly developing into that role but he needs some assistance from Matt Kelly.

Kelly may be a soft spoken guy but as a senior who has been starting since his freshman year, he is by far the most experienced and best defender on this team.

Kelly can lead by example, and if he does a good job of that, Virginia can have the same kind of success that led them to an undefeated season just a few years ago.

Dom Starsia has certainly felt pressure.  As a coach he has experienced tight moments and had his team ready to play on the biggest stage that lacrosse has to offer.

He has done what no other Virginia coach has done, become one of the perennial leading programs in the country in a particular sport.

However, with the failures of the revenue sports at historic levels, Virginia lacrosse will be experiencing a pressure few teams across the country have ever felt.

Virginia fans need lacrosse to do well.  For their psyche, for their fandom.

A postseason berth, even a Final Four appearance will not be enough.

For Virginia to not rue the athletic season that was 2008-09, the men's lacrosse team must win the national championship.

The season starts off this Valentine's Day against Drexel, a team that has actually given Virginia fits in the past.

The Dragons were the ones that ruined the high of the 2006 season by beating them at home in the 2007 opener.

Will it be another Valentine's Day Massacre?  Let's hope not, Virginia fans have suffered enough. 

The Cavaliers have the talent, they have the experience and they have the incentive.

Now it's time to actually do it.


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