Defense Keys UVa Lacrosse Win
March 25, 2006
Charlottesville, VA – Entering Saturday’s match up with Johns Hopkins (3-3), most of the attention focused on the top-ranked Virginia men’s lacrosse team (9-0) had to do with its offense. Specifically, the fact the Cavaliers were leading the nation in scoring at 15.38 goals per game.
But the story during UVa’s 12-6 win against the defending national champion Blue Jays was defense. The victory came before a crowd of 7,440, the largest to ever see the Cavaliers play at Klöckner Stadium.
“We never get any credit for playing defense to be honest,” said Virginia head coach Dom Starsia. “We lead the country in scoring, that’s all anyone wants to talk about. But we’re playing good defense.”
Led by the physical play of senior captains J.J. Morrissey and Michael Culver, as well as junior goalie Kip Turner, the Hoos’ defense held Hopkins to six goals, a figure which tied for the fewest allowed by Virginia in the 78-game series.
Culver helped the Cavalier cause by recording his first goal of the season and only the second during his career to give Virginia a 6-2 lead at the 6:10 mark of the third period.
“My last one was against Mt. St. Mary’s last year,” said Culver, a defenseman. “This was certainly a big one. It came at a good time. Right when I shot it, I wasn’t sure if I should take it, but it trickled in, and I’ll take it.”
“The key was helping each other out,” said Morrissey, a midfielder. “We stopped them from being able to get to our net offensively.”
The victory marked the eighth opponent the Cavaliers have held to seven or fewer goals this season. Only Syracuse (15) has scored more.
“You can’t play run and gun if the other team doesn’t cooperate,” said Starsia. “We have to be able to win a game where it’s going to be low scoring. If the team wants to hold the ball, it requires a little bit more patience, discipline, and smarts. We’re beginning to demonstrate that we can play at that pace as well.”
At the 4:40 mark of the first period Johns Hopkins scored to even the game at 2-2. The Blue Jays did not register another goal until 11:40 was remaining in the fourth period. By that point Virginia had built a 7-2 lead.
“Somebody was going to give me statistics sheet at halftime,” Starsia said. “I don’t even look at it to be honest. I’m more interested in the flow of the game. But when they got the extra-man goal, it did occur to me that, jeez, they haven’t scored in a long time. I had no idea what the time frame was.”
The win was Virginia’s eighth in its last nine meetings with the Blue Jays in Charlottesville. The Cavaliers are now 16-6-1 when holding Hopkins to 10 or fewer goals.
The leadership of Morrison and Culver, combined with the development of some of the younger defensemen, has fortified the Cavalier’s defense this season.
“At the beginning of the season, that was a bit of the criticism of our team was whether we could buckle down and play that more deliberate style of game that Johns Hopkins does,” Culver said.
“I’ve got a nice group of young defensemen,” said Starsia. “We’ve got two freshman poles playing. Both those kids have really stepped up.”
The win was Virginia’s 17th straight home victory, the nation’s longest home winning streak. It also leaves the Cavaliers as one of two undefeated teams. Third-ranked Cornell is the other.
by Peter Goergen
UVa Media Relations