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March 4, 2005

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Game 3
#6 Virginia at #2 Syracuse
March 5, 2005 o 3 pm
Carrier Dome o Syracuse, N.Y.

The Series vs. Syracuse
Virginia and Syracuse have staged some of the most thrilling battles in college athletics throughout the last decade, but the rivalry stretches back more than half a century. Syracuse won the first meeting 13-4 in 1938 and has won 11 of the 18 meetings all-time.

The two schools battled only three times between 1938-93, but have met at least once each season since 1994.

The titans began a regular season series in 1995 and have played every year since in what is one of the most anticipated games of the season by lacrosse fans everywhere.

Virginia ended Syracuse’s four-game series winning streak with a 16-15 win in the most recent contest in the Carrier Dome two years ago. The Cavaliers rallied from a three-goal deficit (9-6) in the third quarter and won on John Christmas’ low bouncer with 22 seconds remaining. The Orange returned the favor by beating the Cavaliers 18-12 last season in Charlottesville. Overall, Syracuse has won nine of the last 11 games dating back to 1997.

Both teams are known for their high-scoring offenses, but it is interesting to note that since 1999 Syracuse has scored at least 15 goals only three times (2002-03-04) and Virginia once (’03).

Tight Games Characterize Series
One of the reasons this matchup is so widely anticipated is the potential for a high-scoring game that is likely to go down to the wire.

Since 1996 a three-goal win can be considered a “blow out.” Nine of the 12 games since then have been decided by just one or two goals. Syracuse has won by six on two occasions (2001, 2004), by far the biggest win by either team in this span. Virginia’s biggest wins in the last nine years are two-goal wins in 1996 and the 1999 national championship game.

UVa’s three wins since ’96 have been by a total of five goals (1.67/g), while Syracuse’s nine wins have been by a total of 23 goals (2.56/g).

In the history of the series, the biggest win by either team is a 13-4 Syracuse win in 1938 in the first meeting between the two squads. Virginia’s biggest win is a 15-7 victory in the Carrier Dome in 1995.

Of the 18 games, 11 have been decided by one or two goals.

To the Winner Go the Spoils
The winner of this game the last three years has gone on to win the national championship. Virginia won its most recent national title two years ago during a season that saw the Cavaliers win 16-15. Syracuse took the title in 2002 and 2004 following regular season wins over UVa. Curiously, the winning team was the visitor each year.

Starsia’s Cavaliers vs. Higher Ranked Opponents
Virginia comes into this game ranked sixth in this week’s Inside Lacrosse media poll, while Syracuse is ranked second.

Since the Cavaliers are typically found at or near the top of the polls, it’s not unusual they are the higher ranked team more often than not. However, on the rare occasions when the Cavaliers are the lower ranked squad they have had pretty good success springing an upset as shown by their 23-25 record when being the lower-ranked team.

The Cavaliers got off to a slow start last year, losing four of their first five games. As a result they fell quickly in the polls and found themselves frequently playing higher ranked opponents, finishing with a 4-5 record. The four wins are their most ever as an underdog.

Virginia is 4-7 all-time as the lower-ranked team in this series, but three of the wins have occurred when the Orange were ranked #1.

deVilliers Shines vs. the Orange
Senior captain Jack deVilliers is in his fourth season as the team’s leading faceoff specialist. He was named an honorable mention preseason All-American by Face-Off Yearbook and a return to his form of two years ago will be a key element in the Cavaliers’ attempt to return to the national playoffs.

During UVa’s national championship season in 2003 he won nearly 60 percent of his attempts. His success rate fell to 49 percent last spring, but he closed the year on a high note by winning at least 50 percent in five of the last six contests.

He got off to a slow start this season, taking just 12 of 25 attempts in the first game against Drexel. Interestingly, he won only four of nine in the second quarter, but the losses didn’t seem to hurt his team. The Cavaliers outscored the Dragons 8-0 in the quarter to seize control of the contest on the way to a 16-7 win.

deVilliers got back on track last weekend vs. Manhattan, winning 12 of 15 attempts in UVa’s 18-2 win. His winning percentage (.800) is the second-highest of his career.

He currently stands second in school history in faceoff wins and attempts behind Jason Hard (1997-2000). Hard took 949 draws in his career and won 539, while deVilliers has 461 wins in 868 attempts.

If history repeats itself, deVilliers is due for a strong outing against Syracuse. In four games against the Orange he has won nearly 57 percent of his faceoffs.

Ward Runs Streak to Seven Straight
Matt Ward exploded for five goals (one off his career high) in the season opening win over Drexel and followed that with a 3-goal performance vs. Manhattan last week to run his multigoal streak to seven games dating back to last season. During his current hot streak he has scored 26 goals (of the team’s 86).

His seven-game streak of 2+ goals is the longest by a Cavalier since Joe Yevoli’s 7-game run in mid-2002. Doug Knight put together a ridiculous 14-game multi-goal streak in 1996 which is the most recent run longer than seven games.

The junior from Oakton, Va., is second in the nation in goals (8) and third in total points (10).

Goalies Each Get a Half So Far
The two candidates to replace the graduated Tillman Johnson in goal-Kip Turner and Bud Petit-have been running even since the beginning of preseason drills. They split time in the cage during the three scrimmages and have continued the pattern in the season’s first two games.

Against Drexel in the season’s first game, sophomore played the opening 30 minutes and recorded three saves, while giving up two goals. Redshirt freshman Bud Petit went the whole way in the second half. He saved the first shot he faced and finished with three saves and allowed five goals.

The roles were reversed last week vs. Manhattan. Petit got the start and finished with three saves in 30 scoreless first half minutes. Turner took over after halftime and stopped four shots, while allowing just two goals.

First Midfield Turns in Solid Effort in Opener
The first midfield unit of Kyle Dixon, Matt Poskay and Drew Thompson is in its second year of playing together. In the season opener vs. Drexel they had the best effort ever as a unit. Together they combined for seven goals and three assists in the Cavaliers’ 16-7 win over Drexel.

This is in contrast to their best effort last year of four goals and two assists on two occasions.

Poskay scored four times, while Thompson netted a pair as both players established career highs against the Dragons. Dixon tallied a career-high three assists. Poskay’s four goals are the most by a Cavalier middie since A.J. Shannon scored four against Johns Hopkins in the 2003 national championship game.

They put together another strong effort vs. Manhattan, combining for four goals and four assists in an 18-2 win. Dixon led the scoring parade with a goal and tied his career high with three assists. Thompson also equaled his career high with two goals and an assist, while Poskay scored once.

Dixon is currently second in the country with six assists and tied for sixth with eight total points. Poskay is tied for 11th with five goals.

Improved Shooting Leads to Win
The Cavaliers have done a much better job of shooting in this season’s wins over Drexel and Manhattan than they ever did last season. In the 16-7 win over Drexel in the opener, Virginia scored on 35.6 percent of its shots (16×45). That is the team’s best performance since a 2003 NCAA Tournament match-up against Mount St. Mary’s, . when they connected on 38.8 percent of their shots (19×49).

They found the back of the net 34 percent of the time (18×53) against Manhattan, marking the first time since 2003 they have hit at least 30 percent in back-to-back games. The Cavaliers last reached 30 percent in three straight games in 2002 (Towson-Maryland).

It’s interesting to note that Virginia has scored on at least 30 percent of its shots in the last three regular-season match-ups with Syracuse.

When the Cavaliers shoot at least 30 percent they have had remarkable success recently. Last year they were only 5-8 overall, but had a 2-1 record when shooting 30 percent or better. Since 2000 Virginia is 28-5 (.848) when shooting 30+ percent.

Ward Joins Century Club
Junior attackman Matt Ward tallied four points (3g, 1a) the last time out vs. Manhattan to become the 36th Cavalier to register at least 100 points in a career; he now has 102.

Along with active Cavaliers John Christmas and Joe Yevoli, Ward’s entrance in this exclusive club marks the first time since 2000 that the roster features three 100-point scorers (Conor Gill, Jay Jalbert and Drew McKnight).

Ward began the season with 92 points and has erupted for 10 more in just two games. He has scored 67 goals and added 35 assists in two years plus two games.

Ward is currently tied for 34th on UVa’s career points list.

Bateman Shines in UVa Debut
Preseason All-American Rob Bateman didn’t seem to let a year’s layoff slow him down against Drexel in the season’s first game. The Penn State graduate sat out last season with an injury and transferred to UVa to use his final year of eligibility. Showing a remarkable ability to run the field, he led a fast break and fed Matt Ward for a fourth quarter goal. He also made several big strips on the defensive end and shared the team lead with seven ground balls.

He came up with one ground ball vs. Manhattan and is tied for second on the team with eight GBs.

Three Cavaliers on Tewaaraton Watchlist
Rob Bateman, John Christmas and Matt Ward have been named to the Tewaaraton Award Watchlist announced by the Tewaaraton Award Foundation. The Tewaaraton Award is given annually to the nation’s top player.

Bateman is considered one of the top longstick midfielders in the country. A preseason second-team All-American by Face-Off Yearbook, he is using his final season of eligibility at UVa in 2005. He graduated from Penn State last spring and redshirted the season due to an injury. He earned All-American honors in 2002 and 2003 and led the ECAC in ground balls both years.

Christmas has been one of the nation’s most dynamic players throughout his career. He scored 11 goals and added 10 assists last season to rank third on the team. He entered this season fourth among active ACC players in both goals (76) and points (113).

Ward earned preseason second-team All-American honors by Face-Off Yearbook this season. He was named a third-team All-American last season after leading the team in goals (33), assists (13) and points (46), becoming the first player since 1999 to lead the team in those three categories.

The Tewaaraton Trophy will be presented at the annual banquet on June 2 at the National Geographic Society headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Eight Named Preseason All-American
Eight Cavaliers have been named to the 2005 Face-Off Yearbook preseason All-American squad. Two were named to the second-team-senior longstick midfielder Rob Bateman and junior attackman Matt Ward. Senior attackmen John Christmas and Joe Yevoli, junior defensemen Michael Culver and Steve Holmes, senior faceoff specialist Jack deVilliers and junior midfielder Kyle Dixon received honorable mention recognition.

Bateman transferred from Penn State, where he received his undergraduate degree after redshirting last season. He is playing as a graduate student this season. He was a two-time All-American at Penn State and helped lead the Nittany Lions to their first NCAA Tournament appearance in 2003.

Ward scored 59 goals in his first two years to become just the seventh player in school history to score at least 50 goals as a sophomore. Overall he has scored at least once in 27 of 32 career games.

The ever dangerous Christmas is one of the nation’s quickest attackmen, and always draws the opposition’s top defenseman. His numbers were down a bit last season with 11 goals and 10 assists, and a return to his past level of play will go a long way toward propelling UVa back into the national championship picture. Yevoli hasn’t practiced yet this spring due to an injury and his status for this season is undetermined.

Culver and Holmes are underrated performers who have been overshadowed on the Cavalier defense by Brett Hughes and Tillman Johnson in the past. They are both athletic and aggressive and were among the leading ACC defensemen in ground balls a year ago.

deVilliers is listed among the nation’s top faceoff men and ranks second in the UVa record book behind Jason Hard in both wins (461) and attempts (868). He finished last year on a high note, winning at least 50 percent in five of the last six games.

Dixon had an outstanding fall season and should be ready to step up his production. He was one of four ACC midfielders to reach double figures in goals (10) and assists (11).

Captains Named for 2005
Senior faceoff midfielder Jack deVilliers, junior defenseman Steve Holmes, senior midfielder Joe Thompson and junior attackman Matt Ward have been named team captains this season.

deVilliers enters his fourth season as the team’s primary faceoff specialist. A preseason honorable mention All-American by Face-Off Yearbook, he is among the top performers in school history. He is second in school history with 461 wins and 868 attempts. deVilliers has led the team in ground balls the last two years, the first Cavalier to do so since David Jenkins led from 1999-2001.

Holmes returns as a starter on close defense. A very athletic player, he can also play longstick midfielder if needed. Last season he started the final 12 games and led the team’s longsticks with 45 ground balls, third among ACC longsticks.

Thompson returns after two years away from the program. He was not in school last season and served as the head assistant coach at nearby Woodberry Forest school. An emotional leader, he scored three goals in four appearances in 2002.

Ward led the team in goals (33), assists (13) and total points (46) last year, the first player to lead the team in all three categories since 1999. A powerful attackman, he earned preseason second-team All-American honors from Face-Off Yearbook this year.

Conor Gill Moves Into Full-time Coaching Position
Former UVa standout Conor Gill has moved into a full-time position on Dom Starsia’s staff, replacing David Curry, who resigned following last season to pursue other interests.

Gill graduated from UVa in 2002 with a degree in sociology and has remained close to the Cavalier program since. He served as a volunteer assistant last season. His brother, Brendan, is a senior attackman this year, while another younger brother, Gavin, has signed to play at UVa next season.

One of the greatest players in school history, Gill was a three-time All-American during his career and helped guide the Cavaliers to three final four appearances.

He was the first freshman selected Most Outstanding Player of the NCAA Championships in 1999 after leading the Cavaliers to their first national title in 27 years. In one of the most amazing performances in tournament history, Gill scored a career-high five goals-all in a span of 3:08 in the first quarter-to lead UVa to 16-11 win over Johns Hopkins in the semifinals. In the finals, against Syracuse, he tallied two goals and assisted on UVa’s final goal as the Cavaliers claimed the championship with a 12-10 victory.

Gill was a three-time All-ACC selection and a two-time All-ACC Tournament selection. He was named ACC Rookie of the Year in 1999 and Most Valuable Player of the 2000 ACC Tournament.

Voted one of the 50 greatest players in Atlantic Coast Conference history, he finished tied for second in assists (146) and seventh in career points (223) in league history.

A native of Lutherville, Md., Gill was a prep lacrosse standout at St. Paul’s School, where he set school records for points in a season and a career.

He has played with the Boston Cannons of Major League Lacrosse the last three seasons. Last year he was named the league’s Most Valuable Player after leading the league in points (67) and assists (record-tying 40). The second player picked in the 2002 draft, he was named the league’s Rookie of the Year that season.

Yevoli’s Status Uncertain
Senior attackman Joe Yevoli has not taken part in any team drills since the end of last season due to a lingering injury. He missed fall ball and hasn’t practiced yet this spring. His status is undetermined at this time and it would not be unexpected that he redshirt this season as a result.

evoli’s absence is particularly noteworthy for this game. In four career games against the Orange he has scored 14 goals, added three assists and scored at least three goals in every game.

Bateman Transfers to UVa
The Cavalier defense gained a boost during the offseason when former Penn State All-American LSM Rob Bateman decided to use his final year of eligibility in Charlottesville.

He redshirted last season and, after receiving his degree in real estate from Penn State last spring, made the move south.

With an uncanny knack for disrupting an offense, he earned second-team All-American honors two years ago while guiding the Nittany Lions to their first NCAA Tournament appearance ever. That season he had 90 ground balls, fifth in the country.

For UVa head coach Dom Starsia, it was “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em,” as Bateman had several terrific performances against the Cavaliers. In 2003 he snared 10 ground balls in a narrow 11-10 UVa win. As a sophomore in 2002, he scored two goals and had an assist in the Nittany Lions’ 13-8 win over the Cavaliers. He also had nine GBs in that game.

One of the nation’s leading ground ball men, he averaged 5.9 GBs per game coming into this season.

Rubeor Gains Staring Nod
With Joe Yevoli out so far with an injury, freshman Ben Rubeor has moved into the starting lineup on attack and played like a seasoned veteran during preseason scrimmages and early season games.

He scored the game winner in the waning moments of a fall ball scrimmage against national runner-up Navy in Virginia Beach in October.

During UVa’s three scrimmages last month he was the team’s leading scorer with eight goals and two assists.

He scored once and had three assists in his debut vs. Drexel and came back with another 1-goal, 3-assist performance vs. Manhattan.

Rubeor has scored twice and added six assists for eight points. He leads the nation’s freshmen in assists (T2nd overall) and is tied for second among rookies in scoring (T6th overall).

He joins a long line of freshmen who have made a mark on the Cavalier attack. Among the freshmen who have starred under head coach Dom Starsia include seniors John Christmas and Joe Yevoli, junior Matt Ward, current assistant coach and MLL MVP Conor Gill, and All-Americans Doug Knight, Drew McKnight, Michael Watson and Tim Whiteley.

Ward First Since ’99
Junior attackman Matt Ward earned third-team All-American accolades last season after leading the team in goals (33), assists (13) and points (46). By leading in all three categories he became the first player to be the team’s leader in each since Tucker Radebaugh in 1999.

He has scored 67 career goals, and was one of seven players in school history with at least 50 through his sophomore year.

Ward has scored at least one goal in 27 of 32 career games. He notched five goals against Drexel to become the 40th Cavalier to score 60 in a career.

He surpassed the 100-point mark vs. Manhattan and stands tied for 34th in school history with Scott Gerham with 102 points.

Offense Improved Over Last Year
One of the most surprising aspects of last season (besides the team’s losing record) was UVa’s inability to generate much offense. The Cavaliers averaged 9.2 goals per game, their lowest since 1967 (8.8) and almost three fewer than they averaged during the 2003 national championship season.

The 2005 season is young and the competition will get more difficult in the coming weeks, but the offense seems to have improved over last year. The Cavaliers are second in the nation in offense, averaging 17 goals per game. They opened with 16 goals vs. Drexel and tallied 18 times against Manhattan. In comparison, last year’s high mark was a 15-goal performance against Drexel.

This is the first time since the first two games of 2003 that the Cavaliers have scored at least 16 goals in back-to-back games.

A shootout vs. Syracuse may not happen, but nobody would be surprised if it did given the history of both teams. Virginia hasn’t scored 15+ goals in three straight since early in the 2000 season (Princeton-Johns Hopkins).

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