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May 22, 2003

Nearly a year has passed since the Virginia men’s lacrosse team suffered a heartbreaking 12-11 double overtime loss in a national semifinal game against Syracuse. But that defeat is also one reason why many of the Cavaliers who walked off the field disappointed are returning to the Final Four.

“That’s been our motivation all year,” ACC Player of the Year Chris Rotelli said. “That motivated us in the off season. Ever since that loss last year it’s really been pushing all the seniors because this is our last go. We’ve done everything we can to get that extra edge this season. This is the weekend where it pays off and we’re just going to try to make that happen.”

Virginia enters the Final Four at M&T Bank Stadium (formerly Ravens Stadium) in Baltimore as the second seed with a 13-2 overall record. The ‘Hoos won the ACC Tournament championship last month and head coach Dom Starsia believes the leadership and play of the team’s 11 seniors are the main reasons why UVa is two wins away from a national title.

“I think the seniors in particular have done everything possible to set the stage for this one,” Starsia said. “This being the third time for those guys gives us some edge in experience and I just don’t think just getting here is enough for these guys right now. Certainly we were excited to beat Georgetown and move on to the Final Four at Ravens Stadium. But I feel like for everybody in the program right now there is a little sense of unfinished business and they would like to be playing through until Monday.”

To advance to Monday’s championship game, the Cavaliers will have to defeat Maryland in Saturday’s second semifinal. The Terrapins won the regular season match-up between the two teams 8-7 on March 29 in Charlottesville. In that game, Virginia fell behind 7-2 before a furious Wahoo rally fell short in the closing seconds.

“We get to try to avenge a loss and play against a team that we don’t feel like we played our best lacrosse,” Rotelli said. “We don’t think we played that well offensively or defensively last time so we’re excited that we get to play them again. We thought we were going to see them in the ACC Tournament, but that didn’t happen so we’re just excited to have another chance at them and we’re going to try to play our best lacrosse this time.”

“Maryland slapped us around a little bit the last time they were here and it really was a good lesson for us,” Starsia said. “It happened to be Maryland and we’re playing them again, but that had less to do with it than the fact that we just needed to learn a couple of things about ourselves. The question is what do you learn from those kinds of losses and I do feel like we’re a smarter, better lacrosse team right now than we were at that time back in March.”

Maryland defeated UMass 13-7 to advance to the Final Four. The Terrapins feature one of the nation’s best defensive units and their offense has improved since the first meeting between the Terps and the ‘Hoos.

“I think we’re going to have to move the ball and move our feet,” ACC Tournament MVP Billy Glading said of the game plan against Maryland’s defense. “That’s the only way to be successful against them. They’re so fast, they’re so big and they’re so strong and they kind of just fly around all over the field. They really pressure you so we’re going to have to be moving ourselves and moving the ball to get some goals against them.

“I think Maryland will do everything they can to hold onto the pace of play,” Starsia said. “It doesn’t necessarily mean that they are going to slow things down to a crawl, but they’re not going to want to let us get out and control things. Some of that will be dictated by how the faceoffs go. Ball possession is going to be important. If it’s going to be a wet field picking the ball up off the ground is a little bit of a factor. It’s not a question of us just pressing the tempo at every instance, but it’s just going to be a sense that you’re in control of the tempo of what’s going on. The marquee match-up is our offensive group against their defensive group. But quietly, I wouldn’t be surprised if the play is actually decided at the other end. We’ve been very solid defensively all year. They’re an evolving offensive group and what are they going to be able to generate offensively as much as anything may carry the day in the end.”

The Virginia vs. Maryland game is expected to start at approximately 2:30 p.m. Saturday. The game will be televised by ESPN2. If UVa wins, it will play the winner of the first semifinal contest between Syracuse and Johns Hopkins in Monday’s NCAA Championship game. The title game will be televised on ESPN beginning at 11:00 a.m.

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