Shooting from the Hip with Brian Carroll
Like many of his teammates, Virginia midfielder Brian Carroll needed a shot of confidence going into the NCAA Championships. A proven goal-scorer, he did not score any goals in a disappointing loss to Duke in the ACC Tournament and was looking forward to last week’s first round matchup against Villanova. The Wildcats proved to be the perfect antidote as he torched the net for a career-high five goals in leading the Cavaliers to an 18-6 win over the CAA champions. This week the Cavaliers travel to Annapolis for a quarterfinal tilt with Johns Hopkins Sunday at noon. Virginia raced out to a big lead aginst the Blue Jays in the first meeting between the two teams back in March only to have the Blue Jays roar back and take a lead late in the third quarter. The Wahoo defense stiffened and held Hopkins scoreless for the final quarter as Garrett Billings and Danny Glading scored UVa’s final two goals to bring a victory back home to Charlottesville. Carroll talks about last week’s game vs. Villanova, this contest against Johns Hopkins and gives an assessment of his play this season.
Question: You have scored 29 goals so far this year, one more goal than you had last year. How would you assess your play this season?
Carroll: I think I’ve been playing well this season. Last season almost half of my goals were on extra man and that’s changed a lot this year. I think I’ve played better this year in 6-on-6. Also Shamel (Bratton)’s had a big year which I think directly impacts me and opens up a lot of opportunities for me.
Question: When Shamel is getting the pole, how does it make your life easier?
Carroll: It makes it a lot easier on me. Obviously it’s much easier dodging against a short stick than a pole. (Some opponents have) actually tried to pole me a couple of games and put the short stick on Shamel. Against one of the teams, Syracuse, I think he had four goals. Teams have realized that it’s probably not a good idea to put a short stick on Shamel and it definitely takes some of the pressure off of me and opens up the offense.
Question: Last week going into the playoffs it seemed like the team needed a little boost of confidence and it looked like the team got that against Villanova. Would you agree with that assessment?
Carroll: I think so. The offense struggled a little bit against Duke; we forced some things, settled for some bad opportunities. I think against Villanova we moved the ball well and worked through the offense really well and I think that shows itself. Our shooting percentage, I think we shot close to 50 percent, shows that we were not settling for bad shots, we were taking high percentage shots and they went in.
Question: Talking about high percentage shots, you found the back of the net by scoring five times, the most in your career. What was going on with that?
Carroll: I think I shot pretty well in practice the week leading up to that and I think I took shots shots in the game which is somewhat normal for me; I usually take around that many of shots and five of them found the goal. I think that was probably my best day, best day ever shooting, so I was pretty happy about that.
Question; The team plays John Hopkins in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Championships on Sunday up in Annapolis, Md., You’re from Baltimore, which is where Johns Hopkins is located. Did you follow the Johns Hopkins program when you were growing up?
Carroll: I was at Gilman, which is probably five minutes, if that, away from Hopkins, so Hopkins was the team that I grew up watching and going to the games at Homewood (Field). I always think it’s cool when we play Hopkins and also playing in Annapolis is near where I am from and that‘ll give a chance for some of my friends and family to make it to the game which is always a good thing.
Question: This year’s first game against Johns Hopkins was a wild one that Virginia won 16-15. Regardless of whether it’s a high-scoring game or not, these games always seem close. What do you attribute that to?
Carroll: I think part of it is that it’s two good teams playing against each other and when you have that it’s going to be close a lot of the time. I don’t this game will be as high scoring. I think playing under the lights at Homewood (in the first game) made it pretty tough on the goalies, so I would probably expect a little bit of a low scoring game this time around.
Question: There’s a little bit more pressure in this game than during the regular season since the winner goes onto the final four. Do you think that might contribute in some way to perhaps a more controlled game?
Carroll: Possibly. I think Hopkins will probably try and control the game a little bit, more than we will. But at the same time if Hopkins is controlling the ball then it kind of forces us to at the same time.
Question: Both Virginia and Johns Hopkins get excellent production offensively from the midfield. Do you see that as an opportunity for you to kind of shine since it’s likely to be a midfield-oriented contest?
Carroll: Hopefully. I think we like our matchups at the midfield against the middies. Our middies played well the last time, so hopefully we can have success in midfield in this game also.
Question: You are a known goal scorer, but is this the type of game in which there is likely to be a premium on the play by the middies on defense or where you know the middies will have to play strong on both ends of the field?
Carroll: I think middies playing strong on both ends of the field is always important. Something that we actually did last game against Villanova for the first time was that I was starting on the close defense on some of the faceoffs because we were double poleing the midfield and having a short stick guarding one of the attackmen. If you have a middie down covering one of the attackmen, it’s always really important for that midfielder to try and play good defense.
Question: Now that classes and exams behind you the team has a lot of opportunity to get some good practice in. Do you think that helps the team become a little bit more sharp as its get further down road in the postseason?
Carroll: It definitely helps. Exam week led up into the first game of the tournament and I know personally I probably didn’t get as much sleep as I would like to before the Villanova game. I’m sure a lot of guys were in the same boat. This week we have nothing at all to worry about except lacrosse and I think that definitely helps us focus and prepare well mentally for this game.
Question: You are pretty familiar with Johns Hopkins and a lot of their personnel. Does the familiarity make this week’s preparations a little bit easier knowing there’s very few surprises?
Carroll: I think that helps a lot. Our team is very familiar with Johns Hopkins. I think that’ll help us fine tune some of our preparation because we already know the basics of what we have to do. I think that’ll help us make a specific game plan.
Question: What do you think will take to beat the Blue Jays on Sunday?
Carroll: Score more goals than they do (chuckles).
Question: How exciting would it be to return to Foxborough for second year in a row with a victory?
Carroll: It would be very exciting. (Last year’s) final four was one of the coolest things I’ve ever been a part of and it’s just a great experience and obviously we would love to make it back there.
Question: This year you were named to the All-ACC team for the second year in a row. That’s a very rare accomplishment. What is it like to have your named put in the same category with some of the past great UVa midfielders such as Jay Jalbert and Chris Rotelli?
Carroll: It’s a huge honor just to be talked about in the same sentence as those guys. There are a lot of great middies in the ACC and I happened to get picked both of those years. I think other people could have taken those spots at the same time so maybe I was a little bit lucky getting picked. But it’s definitely an honor and something that I am proud of.