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Going into last weekend’s season opener at Drexel, head coach Dom Starsia was concerned. Not the least of those concerns was the fact that the Dragons upset his top-ranked Cavaliers in the season opener. Certainly no one in the Virginia camp wanted a repeat, least of all the head coach.

Combine that with several players making their collegiate debut in a hostile environment, including a freshman goalie in his first start, there was plenty to keep Starsia up at night.

But his Cavaliers handled all the issues with ease, outscoring the Dragons 5-2 in the second half on the way to an 11-7 victory. “I think it was a significant win for us,” Starsia said. “Drexel is a quality team.

“We have some young guys playing some key roles and some new guys in some important spots and we certainly feel like it’s a good way for us to start the season.”

The win was made even more satisfying because Drexel played a zone defense the entire 60 minutes but the offense figured out a way to respond. “We were prepared for some zone, but we would never have expected to see it for the entire 60 minutes,” said Starsia. “It required some poise and some patience on our part offensively, that to be honest surpassed my expectations a little bit. I thought we really did a nice job at that end of the field throughout the game.”

Junior Garrett Billings scored three goals, while also consistently finding the open man on the way to a game-high four assists. Sophomore midfielder Brian Carroll also scored three times, all on extra man, as the Cavaliers were a perfect 4-for-4 on EMO.

The defenseled by Ken Clausen, Matt Kelly, Tim Shaw, Ryan Nizolek and Mike Timmsprovided exceptional coverage for Adam Ghitelman, making his first start in goal. The rookie from Syosset, N.Y., recorded 10 saves to become only the third freshman in school history to make double digit saves in his first start. The other twoTillman Johnson and Derek Kenneyboth won national championships during their career in the orange and blue.

“On the defensive end, I thought we got better as the game went on,” Starsia said. “I thought we displayed some characteristics of toughness and resiliency that are things that you like to see in a team and certainly are things that we hope will carry over throughout the season.”

Unlike last season, the team has a little more bounce in its step during preparations for the second game of the season. The third-ranked Cavaliers host Stony Brook Saturday at 1 pm at Klckner Stadium in their home opener.

“We just need to continue to have our goal be to play our best game and that’s what I think we’ve come to expect of ourselves,” said Starsia about this weekend’s match-up with the Seawolves. “Certainly going into Saturday that’s what we’re going to try to do.”

Stony Brook is playing its first game of the season, but the team’s have played the previous two seasons, so Starsia’s group is familiar with the Seawolves, who return five of their top-seven scorers from last year.

Senior attackman Bo Tripodi scored a team-high 21 goals in 2007 and is joined by senior Bobby Trenkle up front. Trenkle scored 10 goals and added a team-best 14 assists. The top midfield of Owen Adams (18g, 3a), Rhys Duch (8g, 4a), and Ryan Hughes (15g, 8a) all played significant roles for coach Rick Sowell last spring.

“We have our tape from them last year and then we have the tape of their last game last year so you can sort of see the progress that made over the course of the season,” said Starsia this week. “This also allows you to look fairly closely at some of the returning personnel.”

Defensively Stony Brook has undergone some significant changes, particularly in goal, but all-conference performersChris Gignilliat and Steven Waldeckreturn.

“They’ve got some new people on defense, so we don’t know quite as much about them at that end of the field,” Starsia said. “They played a little zone against us last year, so we expect to see a little bit of that.”

Following the Stony Brook match-up, the Cavaliers have little time to rest before hosting Vermont Tuesday at 4 pm at Klckner Stadium. But Starsia and the players aren’t bothered by the quick turnaround. “I think midweek games are, frankly, a treat for the players,” he said. “Vermont will have only played one game a couple of days before that, so we are not going to have a lot of information. But you want to come out with some enthusiasm and hope that sort of carries you through.”

The Catamounts, coached by former UVa All-American Ryan Curtis, open their season at Duke on Saturday before traveling to Charlottesville for Tuesday’s clash.

Single-game tickets are available for both games and can be purchased at the gate on game day or in advance at Reserved tickets are $9 and general admission tickets are $7. General admission tickets for youth, senior citizens and faculty/staff members w/ID are $5.

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